State Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario

ONTARIO – State Sen. Cliff Bentz was in Ontario Tuesday and his absence from the Capitol could stop the Oregon Senate from moving ahead with a controversial business tax.

The Senate needs at least one Republican in the chamber for there to be a quorum for business to get done.

The Senate Republicans were threatening to stay away, hoping the move would force Democrats to change the pending legislation, House Bill 3427.

If there are no Senate Republicans in Salem, there can’t be a vote on House Bill 3427A.

Bentz said Tuesday that not all Republican lawmakers have departed the capital.

“There has been no denial of a quorum yet, as of this moment. Yesterday we provided the two votes, or the two people, necessary to allow the Senate to go forward with its business,” said Bentz.

Bentz said Republicans don’t oppose supporting education in Oregon, they just don’t agree with the HB 3427. Bentz said the bill is a “gross receipts tax on anybody who has a business that has receipts in excess of $1 million.”

“A million dollars isn’t what it used to be. The tax is completely inequitable,” said Bentz.

Bentz said Republicans believe the focus should be on fixing the Public Employee Retirement System – or PERS – and not taxing businesses.

“The Democrats must do something to address PERS before we provide a quorum. The problem is they (Democrats) are missing the biggest elephant in the room, which is PERS,” said Bentz.

Bentz said Senate Republicans “presented the president of the Senate what we believe is the proper list of requirements that need to be discussed.”

“We understand we are a minority and it is up to the Democrats to run the state and put a budget together. But we are not going to stand by and watch some of things they are doing without utilizing the power we have to stop bad things from happening,” said Bentz.

Bentz said discussions between Republicans and Democratic leaders in the Senate were ongoing.

“We’ve indicated, we’ve said, ‘look we understand the need to help our students, particularly given the incredibly high cost of PERS and the huge drain those retirement plans have on school resource. But we understand that this bill does nothing to address PERS,’” said Bentz.

Bentz said Republicans are “not going to be willing to watch another great big tax be put in place while the Legislature ignores the damage PERS is doing to our student’s future,” said Bentz.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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