Others Say 4/12

Reducing estate tax would be more fair

If Oregon voters are unwilling to eliminate the estate tax, the next best thing would be to reduce it.

That’s what Bend’s Republican state Sen. Tim Knopp is seeking with Senate Bill 671, which would align state law with federal law by exempting estates worth less than $5 million. Oregon’s current limit is $1 million.

Statewide, voters in November rejected Measure 84, which would have phased out the Oregon estate tax over three years. (In contrast, 55 percent of Deschutes County voters voted Yes.) Opponents of the measure cited the loss in revenue, which was estimated to climb to $120 million a year once the measure was fully implemented. That’s the best argument, but it’s not a sufficient one.

The estate tax amounts to double taxation because the assets have already been taxed and are taxed again when the owner dies. That’s simply unfair.

Worse, it’s bad for economic development, which affects everybody. Experience in the 30-plus states that have eliminated or reduced the tax suggests the change would create jobs by encouraging small businesses and others to save and invest.

It also would discourage taxpayers from leaving the state and increase in-migration that brings investment and tax revenues. Measure 84 supporters estimated the resulting gains would more than offset losses.

Many affected by the estate tax are those with small family businesses, which are discouraged from investing and creating more jobs because of the uncertainty created by the tax. Although farms and forests are eligible for a $7.5 million exemption, that’s often less than the total value of the business and its hard assets.

SB 671 would phase in the change. The state’s exemption would increase to $2 million in 2014, $3 million in 2015, $4 million in 2016 and $5 million in 2017 and thereafter. Knopp estimates the cost at $10 million to $20 million per year, but that must be balanced against anticipated economic development that would likely more than compensate state coffers. Knopp ... believes there are a few Democrats willing to consider raising the limit, and he knows negotiation is the ticket.

Oregon’s estate tax is the enemy of fairness and economic development. This is a battle worth fighting.

— The Bend Bulletin


Clarify animal law

Oregon law is pretty lax where service animals are concerned. It sets relatively few standards about what animals are considered “service” animals. That’s caused problems for everyone from grocery store owners to the disabled themselves. A bill before the Oregon Legislature ... would improve the situation.

SB 610 would amend state law regarding service or assistance animals to bring it into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Service animals are animals trained to help people with a disability. Among the changes proposed:

  • Service animals would be defined as dogs or, in some cases, miniature horses. The list could be expanded, however, at the discretion of the Bureau of Labor and Industries.
  • Animals in the process of being trained to act as service animals would be allowed in public accommodations and state government sites, just as those already trained would be. That is necessary, lawmakers believe, to give animals exposure to the kinds of real-life situations they will have to handle when they are working.
  • Animals will have to meet the same behavior standards as their owners do. Thus, the Senate Judiciary Committee was told last week, a dog would not be allowed to lick the fruit in a grocery store if that store doesn’t let people lick the fruit. Animals and their owners who fail to meet that standard could be asked to leave.
  • Owners whose animals damage property, say a hotel room, could be charged for that damage.
  • And businesses could not question whether or not an animal owner is disabled, but they could ask what sorts of tasks the animal has been trained to perform.

There are good reasons for the proposed changes aside from the ADA. Too many people, in Oregon and elsewhere, have decided that their dogs should be allowed to accompany them everywhere, including restaurants and grocery stores. Some go so far as to buy official-looking vests for their pets to keep questions to a minimum. ...

The Oregon law regarding service animals ... would make it easier for the owners of real service dogs to gain access to the world the rest of us take for granted.

— The Bend Bulletin

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