Legislature moves bills during special session

On October 3, the Oregon Legislature passed a set of bills that makes changes to the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), increases revenue, and provides additional funding for education (including $25 million for the Oregon University System), mental health services, and senior services. The major components of the package of bills passed are outlined below. 

PERS changes:

SB 861 sets the PERS cost of living adjustment (COLA) rate at 1.25 percent for benefit payments up to $60,000 and 0.15 percent for benefit payments above $60,000 starting on July 1, 2014. The bill also requires a 0.25 percent supplementary payment, capped at $150, to all PERS members or their beneficiaries. An additional 0.25 percent supplemental payment will be made to retirees whose pensions are less than $20,000. Supplemental payments will sunset on December 31, 2019.

SB 862 excludes salary increases made in lieu of insurance coverage from calculation of final average salary for determining long-term pension benefits. It further removes future legislators from PERS and prevents some convicted felons from receiving benefits.

Revenue enhancements:

HB 3601 changes tax rules, raising taxes on cigarettes, certain corporations and high income earners. It includes adjustments to Oregon's senior medical deduction, a higher tax rate for "C corporations," the removal of the $183 personal exemption for taxpayers earning over $100,000 individually or $200,000 jointly, and a 13-cents-per-pack boost in cigarette taxes. The bill also cuts rates for partnerships, limited liability companies, S corporations, and certain export businesses.

Additional funding:

HB 5101 appropriates $140 million for education, $10 million for mental health programs, and $41 million for senior programs. It includes $25 million for a tuition buy down at OUS institutions. A budget note attached to the bill calls for the OUS allocation to be used to keep increases to the base rates per credit hour paid by resident undergraduates under 2 percent for winter and spring terms of 2014 on all seven campuses. The budget note further calls for no increases in the base rates for resident undergrads for the 2014-15 academic year.  The Oregon University System issued a statement praising the Legislature for the added investment.

A final bill, SB 863, limits local government regulation of genetically modified organisms.