The 2015 Oregon State Chamber of Commerce (OSCC) Legislative Agenda represents the legislative priorities of the Main Street business community as represented by the 66 local Chambers of Commerce represented by the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.

The OSCC is organized to support business growth, job growth and income growth in each of our local communities, many of which have not realized the economic gains seen in the Portland/Metro Area in recent years. We believe a healthy business climate, and the jobs that such a business climate creates, is the key to building up our local communities and making them prosperous.

The 2015 OSCC Legislative Agenda reflects our belief that state government can be a valuable partner in helping our local communities grow and prosper. But the tens of thousands of businesses that belong to our local chambers also caution the Oregon Legislature against enacting counter-productive policies that would effectively kill our ability to create jobs and more prosperous communities.

The OSCC Legislative Agenda is equal parts proactive and defensive. We recognize there are many threats to small and Main Street business viability that will emerge from the 2015 Oregon Legislature, but we are also optimistic that the Legislature will see the wisdom in promoting business growth in all corners of the state and will pursue an agenda that elevates all local communities in the state and sets the stage for long term growth and prosperity in all communities across Oregon.

The OSCC Opportunity Agenda for Local Business and Communities includes:

1. Transportation Investments. OSCC will be supportive of efforts to create a comprehensive funding package for transportation infrastructure paid for by an increase in the state gas tax. OSCC is also supportive of efforts to revitalize and repair local airports across Oregon through an increase in the jet fuel tax. Finally, OSCC supports multi-modal transportation investments through a Connect Oregon bonding package.

2. Expansion of small business tax cut. The 2013 Special Session of the Oregon Legislature recognized the need to create a lower tax rate for small business pass-through entities (S corps, LLCs, etc.). OSCC not only seeks to protect this rate cut for existing employers, but to expand it for the smallest businesses that are sole proprietors or have only part-time employees.

3. Natural resource utilization. The Governor allocated $30 million in his budget to put in place the infrastructure to add storage capacity for water from the Columbia River. This not only has immediate ramifications for local communities in NE Oregon, but it has future benefits for agriculture and food production statewide. OSCC also supports innovative projects such as the Urban Forestry Co-op pilot project for Clackamas County that will create local wood supplies that can be harvested and milled and turned into building materials locally.

4. Career & Technical Education/Workforce Development. OSCC supports initiatives that enhance the existing pool of skilled workers, including on-the-job training. OSCC supports initiatives that enhance the skills of incumbent workers; matches job skills to current employer needs, and continue or enhance funding for Career & Technical Education programs.

5. Local Community Development & Tourism. OSCC supports specific efforts to revitalize our local communities through tourism. OSCC also supports specific efforts to revitalize our local communities, such as the Revitalize Main Street Act, which provides a 25% rebate for certified rehabilitation of historic commercial buildings in communities throughout Oregon. Such a proposal would generate 1,300 local jobs and $25 million in additional local income.

The OSCC Defensive Agenda for Local Business and Communities includes:

1. Expansion of workplace mandates. While the Portland economy may be able to sustain a paid sick leave mandate, the rest of the state’s local small businesses cannot. OSCC opposes expansion of the Portland paid sick leave mandate to all Oregon businesses. Small employers all across Oregon are able to develop policies today to protect the health of their workforce without costly and impractical government mandates that further hamper business operations.
OSCC is also highly skeptical of “pay equity” mandate proposals

2. Increased taxes on businesses & individuals. Oregon’s general fund is projected to grow at an 11% rate for the 2015-17 biennium. There is not a compelling need for additional resources from the business community or individual Oregonians. Oregon’s income, investment, and business income tax rates are already among the highest in the United States. Our local communities cannot withstand further discouragement of investment and punitive taxes on mobile income.

3. Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The low-carbon fuel additives needed to achieve this mandate are not commercially available for Oregon consumers in adequate supplies. The Clean Fuels Program will effectively translate into significant increases in fuel costs, as the Oregon mandate will create demand for a product in extremely limited supply. Our local communities today are just starting to realize the benefits of more disposable income due to lower fuel costs. To rob our communities of this disposable income by artificially driving the cost of fuel back up with this costly mandate will be a back-breaker for our local communities.

4. State-run retirement plan for private sector employers/employees. There are thousands of retirement products available to our local small businesses and their employees, and sold by our local small businesses. The addition of one state-run retirement plan as a solution to our state’s retirement savings crisis is both disingenuous and dangerous. It’s dangerous because a state-run plan will have no more benefit than any of the 10,000+ privately managed plans in existence today unless it is mandated for Oregon employers, which is what we fear is the ultimate goal for this proposal.

5. Increased minimum wage beyond current law annual CPI increases. Oregon’s minimum wage law is already fair. Already one of the highest minimum wage rates in the nation, Oregon’s minimum wage increases each and every year based on the Portland CPI. Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour will have the effect of immediate and significant job loss, especially among young and low-skilled workers, and will further hurt the ability of small business to compete with big businesses that can afford to pay higher wages.

The Chamber Governmental Affairs Council is guided by the following objectives:

1. Preserving the competitive enterprise system of business by creating a better understanding and appreciation of the importance of the business community and concern for its problems; creating a more intelligent business and public opinion regarding city, county, state, and national legislative and political affairs; preventing controversies which are detrimental to business and the community; and creating a greater appreciation of the value of competitive business.

2. Promoting business and community growth and development by: promoting economic programs designed to strengthen and expand the income potential of all classifications of business within the trade area; and discovering and correcting abuse which prevents the promotion of business expansion and community growth.

Other guidelines include:

1. The use of taxes should be fair and equitable in providing services and programs that benefit the economic growth and the health and welfare of citizens.
2. Reasonable regulations are necessary to a growing economy.
3. Governmental policy needs to promote economic opportunity.
4. Government expenditures should not grow at rates greater than populations and inflation.
5. Government must look for more efficient ways to provide services to maintain quality government within cost restraints.