Proposed $2 Billion Statewide Education Package Passed onto House Floor

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Student Success passed its new education package out of committee Monday evening, setting up a vote on the House floor that will probably happen after the bill’s third reading on Wednesday.

House Bill 3427 emerged out of months of dialogue between the committee and educators, parents and business leaders, with the intention of addressing a wide range of issues in public education.

Specifically, the state would invest in more behavioral and mental health supports and early learning opportunities — especially for low-income students, minority students and students with disabilities, who tend to graduate at lower rates.

The hoped-for outcomes would be to increase high school graduation rates, improve the number of students reading on grade level by third grade and address chronic absenteeism and disruptive behaviors that are regularly seen in Oregon classrooms.

Certainly, those are noble goals, but much concern has centered around how the plan would be funded, specifically through a new business tax that would tax certain commercial activities on companies that bring in at least $1 million annually, while slightly lowering personal income tax rates in all but the highest-earning tax brackets. It’s estimated that this hybrid approach would raise $1 billion in new revenue annually, which would be solely dedicated to funding education improvements.

Tristan Gingerich, operations manager for Gingerich Farm Products Inc., a large blueberry and hazelnut farming operation located outside of Canby, was among those to express concerns about particular aspects of the bill that Oregon hazelnut growers say would put family-owned agricultural processors at a competitive disadvantage.

“Agricultural producers maintain a delicate balance with each other for the slivers of profit we operate on,” Gingerich said in an April 26 letter submitted as testimony. “HB 3427 will make it even harder for family-owned companies to be competitive with businesses structured as cooperatives.”

The Oregon House Republican Office was far more scathing in its condemnation for the bill, which they described as a “hidden sales tax” and a “massive, convoluted $2 billion tax scheme” (because it would raise $2 billion per biennium, and the state sets its budget on a two-year cycle).

“Oregonians deserve more than an ill-considered $2 billion new hidden sales tax that will cost them dearly,” said House Republican Leader Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass). “There is no reason for Democrats to rush a bill through with over two months left in the session. This will cost working families almost every time they buy a product or service.”

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