The Republican legislators representing Roseburg were split on Gov. Kate Brown’s small business tax cut.
The Legislature convened Monday for an emergency session, and approved House Bill 4301 on a bipartisan vote in both the House and Senate. The bill reduces the tax rate for some businesses run as sole proprietorships.
Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, voted “yes”. Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, voted “no.”
While the Senate voted 18 to 12 in favor, the House voted 51 to 8 in favor.
Leif said in an interview Tuesday that he wanted to vote “no,” because he felt the tax reduction should extend to all small businesses; however, he voted “yes” because he felt a “no” vote would send the wrong message to the 5 percent of small businesses that will be helped by the bill.
A “no” vote would have been a “huge slap in the face” to those businesses, Leif said.
Leif made the unusual move of giving a speech on the House floor Monday, despite it being the first day of his first legislative session.
“I earned a lot of respect yesterday, just for the fact that I came out of the chute riding a bull,” Leif said.
He said some people were surprised by that, but he felt passionate about the issue.
During his speech, Leif referenced his 40 years running a photography business, saying it was a struggle to keep employees, make payroll and pay rent. He said he survived recessions and overwhelming taxes, and averted bankruptcy.
Leif referred to a 2017 federal tax reduction of 20 percent for small businesses, and said the Oregon Legislature chose not to pass that to Oregon businesses.
“Let’s be clear. Is this bill here truly to help small businesses, or is it a political theater for the benefit of the governor?” he said.
Leif said while this bill helps 12,000 small businesses, it leaves out another 380,000. Leif said if each of those businesses had been included, and had hired just one new minimum wage employee, the taxes from those newly hired people would amount to $1.14 billion over five years in tax revenues — more than the state will collect from taxes on those businesses.
He said those jobs would also have improved the economy.
Heard said he voted “no” because the 12,000 businesses benefiting from the bill passed Monday will receive only crumbs.
“This bill, simply put, did not do enough to truly help Oregon small businesses and small business owners. It only gave Brown another headline going into the general election,” Heard wrote in an email. “This blatant political theater is disgusting, and I am confident that the good people of Senate District 1 did not want me taking part in it!”
Heard said he supported amendments to the bill that would have helped more businesses, but that Democratic legislators rejected them.
“Once again, however, the ruling party showed its lack of intent to reach across the aisle and come to a compromise and voted those down,” Heard said.
In a news release Monday, the governor thanked the Legislature for approving HB 4301, which she said sent a message that Oregon is a place where small businesses have “a fair shot to thrive.”
“Small businesses are the backbone of a strong Oregon economy, and will now be able to invest more growing their business and hiring more employees,” she said. “I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish today, and I will continue working to create a strong, inclusive economy of the future.”
While some Republicans had feared the emergency session would be extended, and would open the door to other more controversial bills, the session wrapped up in a single day.