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'Grand bargain' passes Special Session

by: KOIN 6 NEWS - Oregon Gov.John Kitzhaber prepares to address the media at the Special Session of the Oregon Legislature at the State Capitol in Salem. 
Wednesday, which marked the final day for lawmakers in Salem, got off to a rough start.

The first bill of Oregon’s special session barely passed in the House. It includes four different tax raises. The measure raises taxes for some businesses and individuals and lowers them for others, according to the Associated Press.

All five bills had to pass in this “grand bargain” package for the work to be complete. The “grand bargain” will make cuts to PERS, the public employee retirement system.

Among the bills passed are:

• Senate Bill 863 prohibits counties from banning genetically modified crops.

• A bill passed to assign new revenue to education, seniors, and mental health.

• Senate Bill 861 cuts the cost of living increases to PERS and, when paired with Senate Bill 862 to restrict PERS salary calculations, would let the state keep more than $400 million a year.

Legislators from both parties praised the passage of the bills to boost school funding and cut PERS costs.

“Oregonians can be proud that the Oregon legislature is not gridlocked. We responded to the Governor’s call for a special session by working together even when it was difficult. We brought additional reforms to the Public Employee Retirement System, helped seniors afford medical care, made a dedicated investment in mental health, supported Oregon small businesses and put more money into education this biennium," said Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and House Republican Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte).

“The negotiations to get to this point were complex, but the result is simple: the Oregon legislature came together for Oregon’s schools.” said House Majority Leader Val Hoyle (D – Eugene). “Instead of taking the D.C.-style path to a partisan shutdown, this package was developed and supported by both parties. Today was a show of statesmanship in our Capitol and a turning point for our state.”

But state Rep. Jules Bailey (D-Portland) voted against all the bills, saying they catered to special interest groups.

"Nevertheless, these bills passed, and Oregonians will have to live with the consequences. I pledge to keep a close eye on how these policies unfold and continue to fight the special interests that want to take money from schools, and keep us from protecting our environment," said Bailey.

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