Rep. Lynn Findley (R-Vale) recently held several informal sessions across the county to gather feedback from voters. (The Enterprise/File)
VALE – Taxes and jobs proved to be the two key themes when Malheur County’s delegate to the Oregon House met with his local constituents earlier this month.
Rep. Lynn Findley (R-Vale), held informal coffee hour sessions in Nyssa and Vale on Sept. 10 and was in Ontario Tuesday for a meeting at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida.
Findley said feedback showed many area business owners are worried about the passage of House Bill 3427, which created a new tax on businesses that will produce more than $1 billion a year.
The Student Success Act is designed to funnel about $2.8 billion into state education in the next two years. The legislation was highly controversial – it sparked the first of two walkouts by Republican lawmakers during the recent legislative session – but was overshadowed by the debate regarding a proposal to cut carbon emissions.
The Student Success Act, said Findley, hits small and medium-sized businesses the hardest.
“People are saying, ‘how are we supposed to go along with that?’” said Findley. “Whether you make money or not, you pay the tax.”
While signed into law, the tax does not become active until January.
Findley said the added costs from the Student Success Act mean businesses are already shopping for locations in other states to avoid the levy.
Money from the Student Success Act is intended to boost graduation rates, early childhood learning and career and technical education programs.
Findley also said he heard concerns about a lack of workers across the region.
“Most of these businesses can’t find workers and the ones they can find, they can’t afford,” said Findley.
Findley said the dearth of workers is the result of the local conditions and the national economy.
“Our economy is humming. We have record employment, record employment of minorities and we’ve never been this prosperous so that makes it hard for companies to find a work force,” said Findley.
Nationally in August the non-farm unemployment rate stood at 3.7. In Oregon, the unemployment rate was 4% in July. The last time the state unemployment rate was that low was 1976.
In Malheur County, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.5% in June.
Findley trumpeted the 2017 federal tax as the reason for the robust regional economy.
“When you go back and see the advantages of the tax cuts and jobs acts and measure the impact, that is huge. Businesses are still doing well,” said Findley.
Findley said he is most proud of the effort he led in the Legislature during the last session to furnish more funding for 911 dispatch centers.
House Bill 2449 will boost the fee for wireless and telephone services across the state from 75 cents to $1 in 2020 and to $1.25 in 2021.
“That was my take home bill. My 911 centers desperately needed additional funding,” said Findley.
News tip? Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.
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