In 2009, Oregon lawmakers approved
HB 2649 and HB 3405, a balanced approach to dealing with their fiscal
problems that included increased taxes on the wealthiest state
residents and corporations. These revenue increases were combined with
lowered taxes for people receiving unemployment insurance benefits,
offering tax relief to many families.
The over-riding theme of the legislative session this year was how toresolve a $4 billion budget deficit. However, unlike many states,Oregon's legislators successfully avoided the worst cuts through fairrevenue generators and spending cuts. They also continued to pushforward on key issues like the environment, worker's rights, andhealthcare. On several issues, such as climate change, the governorput forward an agenda to lead the nation and in other areas strongprogressive legislators set out similarly ambitious goals. In manyinstances compromises tempered the boldness of the final product, butin most cases some real progress was made.
Earlier this year, policymakers in Oregon enacted both temporary
and permanent changes in the state’s tax system to help close an
enormous budget gap and, by extension, provide funding for vital
services like education, health care, and public safety... Yet, due to quirks
in Oregon’s legislative process, opponents of these changes have an
opportunity to put them before the voters for approval via referendum.
Not surprisingly, representatives of big business and a who’s who of
anti-tax organizations are attempting to take full advantage of that
The Missouri legislature adjourned after delivering approximately 160 bills to Governor Nixon.
Budget: The Missouri legislature passed a $23 billion operating budget
for the fiscal year beginning July 1, plus a two-year $600 million
capital improvements budget that includes various projects funded with
federal stimulus money. Governor Nixon used the line-item veto to cut $22.8
million from the operating budget and $82.2 million from the capital
improvement budget. For specific initiatives vetoed click here. The Governor also placed on hold an additional $325 million of expenditures since the state faces declining revenues.
Oregon became the latest state to address the current fiscal crisis with progressive revenue increases. This is part of a welcome trend that we highlighted back in April
of states recognizing that budget cuts need to be balanced with
wealthier state residents being asked to pay their fair share to
address the effects of the economic downturn.
States have traditionally raised taxes in past recessions. Yet, those states that did raise taxes suffered no drop in annual growth rates
compared to states that depended on budget cuts alone during
recessions. The reality is that long-term growth is dependent on making
common-sense public investments, even and especially during economic
downturns. This is one reason that the states which collect the
highest percentage of personal income in taxes actually sustain higher income growth.
Despite a budget surplus of $257 million, Wyoming lawmakers failed to act substantively on big issues like health care reform, prison reform, and development of a coordinated energy policy, as WyoFile.com reports in its end of session recap. Still, progressives made important gains in workers' compensation, health insurance regulation, and beat back an anti-gay "defense of marriage act," a voter ID initiative, and an anti-choice measure. However, lawmakers failed to expand health care for kids and, most regrettably, passed laws making it easier for people convicted of domestic violence to regain their gun ownership.
The Republican National Committee has filed a lawsuit
against the Federal Elections Commission, hoping to prevent
restrictions on donations to political parties designated for spending
on state-level campaign work and congressional redistricting, among
other things. The RNC has teamed up with James Bopp, the country's top crusader against campaign finance regulations, who has had substantial success of late. He argued the Wisconsin Right to Life
case that eviscerated McCain-Feingold's ban on corporate and union
spending on advertisements in federal elections. (He is also himself a
member of the RNC and counsel to the rightwing, socially conservative
group Focus on the Family). Previously his mission has been to tear
down all restrictions on independent groups, but in this case Bopp is
expanding his goals to include the political parties themselves. And
while new Democratic National Committee Counsel Bob Bauer, late of the
Obama campaign and an election law scholar in his own right, thinks the law and the constitution are on their side, the Robert's Supreme Court is clearly on a path toward dismantling the campaign finance regime we have now.
With legislative sessions getting underway around the country, this
Dispatch provides a list of key bills and policies that we encourage
legislators to consider introducing. While not exhaustive of the range
of needed reforms in states, they emphasize initiatives of strategic
importance that are being considered in multiple states. Working with
our various partners, Progressive States Network is providing staff
support for these policies and will work to use movement in multiple
states to generate national media and attention. This in turn will
create greater momentum to assist individual states in pushing bills to
passage. The following is a quick checklist of key policies with links
to model legislation and policy summaries.