New taxes on coffee and old cars are among the proposals introduced by state legislators last week in Salem.

Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, said Friday that last week — the second week of the 2017 legislative session — was a frustrating one for Republicans. He said Democrats from Portland are meeting weekly in secret as part of a work group discussing the state’s budget.

“The interesting part is that the Republicans have not been invited to participate,” he said.

Kruse said he’s concerned about whether the Democrats will reign in spending on the Public Employee Retirement System, and he criticized Gov. Kate Brown for agreeing to give public employees a 6 percent pay increase.

Kruse has introduced legislation to make public employee union negotiations with the executive branch subject to public meetings laws.

“The people get to pay the bills. They at least ought to have a clue as to how the decision’s reached,” Kruse said.

Meanwhile, some legislators have come up with unusual suggestions for filling the state’s looming budget hole, among them House Bill 2875, which would create a five-cent per pound wholesale coffee tax. The coffee tax bill, sponsored by the House Committee on Revenue, could raise around $2 million a year, and the proceeds would be spent on education.

Another tax proposal, House Bill 2877, would charge owners of cars 20 years or older a $1,000 tax every five years. Neither bill has been set for a hearing, which could be a sign both will fail.

Kruse said another major issue he plans to work on is a transportation package. He’s not optimistic that one will get passed this session, though he thinks it’s more likely it will happen in next year’s short session.

He said an audit is needed to determine how the state is spending its transportation dollars. Kruse said he thinks the Oregon Department of Transportation has more engineers than it needs. He also said he has anecdotal information that projects are re-engineered regularly, even projects so far in the future that they may never happen.

Overall, Kruse said Friday, the intensity was really high in the legislature last week, given that it was only the second week. He expects a “battle for taxes” this session.

Rep. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, said he’s concerned about what he sees as an anti-employer sentiment in Salem.

Heard sits on the House Committee on Business and Labor, where he heard testimony on four bills Monday. Some sounded good on the surface, like HB 2167, an anti-bullying in the work place bill, and HB 2180, a bill enabling an employee to place a lien on property owned by an employer who failed to pay the employee’s wages. However, Heard said he plans to offer amendments to ensure that pro-labor legislation doesn’t reach a point where it’s damaging to good employers.

“Everybody wants employees to have the best possible surroundings so they can thrive and move forward in life and be successful, but it takes two to tango,” he said.

Most of these bills “go way too far,” he said, starting out with a good concept, and then becoming extreme.

“It’s the same theme over and over and over, which is business is bad, business is bad, business is bad, here’s six more tools for trial lawyers to sue employers because somebody made fun of somebody’s Donald Trump hat at work,” he said.

If you make it too easy for employees to sue their employers “for pretty much anything,” the toll, especially on small companies, may ironically impact the quality of jobs and the work environment, he said.

Heard also said he spoke with House Speaker Tina Kotek about the housing shortage, and said she seemed receptive to his idea about promoting free market solutions. Heard wants to bring rural developers in to testify about what encourages or discourages them from building multi-family or inexpensive single-family homes.

He said the old car and coffee taxes are unlikely to move forward; however, like Kruse, Heard is concerned Democrats will move to raise taxes. While Democrats point to a looming budget deficit caused by increased expenses, notably PERS increases, Republicans have been saying that revenues are up so the state should be able to close the gap by reducing expenses.

“I for one am not excited about the prospects of raising taxes for Oregonians when we have record revenues,” Heard said.

And in his ongoing battle against red tape, he said he encourages constituents to email him if they are feeling the real-life impact of regulations from state agencies.

Heard can be reached at Kruse can be reached at

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at 541-957-4213.


React to this story:


Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4213 or by email at Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(5) comments


Oregon State Legislature has a great way to follow particular committees and/or bills. Stay informed if they are scheduled for a meeting. If you go to the OLIS there will be an option in the top right corner to receive “e-Subscribe Email” which will send you an email if the bills you're interested in following are scheduled or move out of committee. You can also follow this link and enter your email to receive notifications for various bills.


Rep Phil Barnhart got back to me about the proposed old car and coffee taxes. He wrote, "Thank you for writing me about some of the bills recently introduced by the House Revenue Committee. First, you should know that I did not ask for these bills and I don’t support them.

As chair of the committee, I follow the longstanding practice of introducing any bill brought to me that has to do with taxation. I don't filter any of those bills through a partisan or political lens. However, one of my responsibilities as chair of the committee is to decide which of the bills are worthy of getting a hearing and moving forward. I can tell you definitively that the bills you're writing about will not come up for a hearing or a vote, which means they cannot be passed by the legislature.

As we work to find appropriate solutions to the problems facing our state, I appreciate Oregonians like you who take the time to weigh in. I hope you’ll continue to contact me to share your views on issues that are important to you.

Phil Barnhart
State Representative
Central Lane and Linn Counties"


Here's one that Douglas County would be especially interested in .... House Bill 2590 (sponsored by Representative Hayden, Senator Kruse, Prozanski ) directs Oregon Department of Administrative Services to issue a $3M grant to an organization dedicated to addressing community needs relating to the October 1, 2015 shooting on campus of Umpqua Community College. Public Hearing and Work Session are scheduled before the House Committee on Rules on Thurs, 16 Feb. Anyone going to testify? You can also send comments to the members of the House Committee on Rules. Email the House Rules Committee at or call 503-986-1536


This article inspired me to read the texts of both HB 2875 and HB 2877 at the Oregon State Legislative Information System.

Because they're identified as "Sponsored by Committee on Revenue," I then email'ed Rep Cliff Bentz, Chairman of the House Committee on Revenue. He replied quite promptly stating, "These are not the Republican’s bills, and we R’s certainly do not support them. A committee bill does not carry the name of the sponsor, so it is not clear whose bills these are, but perhaps those who are most interested in raising taxes this year will step up and claim them. Take care. Rep. Bentz."


Old cars and coffee taxes are mentioned in the title but I didn't see any details in the article. What gives? Did the person that wrote this title even read the article?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.