Although most of the action in Salem now consists of jockeying around three large potential tax votes—the hospital provider tax; a corporate tax increase; and a package of increases to fund transportation—there are plenty of policy bills still alive.

One such piece of legislation is Senate Bill 123, which would allow the creation of permanent taxing districts for children's services.

Currently, the Portland Children's Levy must seek voter approval every five years to continue in existance. If SB 123 were to pass, the Children's Levy could become a permanent taxing district, as the Multnomah County Library did in 2012.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro) and Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene), passed the Senate on May 22 by an 18-to-10 vote but faces significant opposition in the House.

Numerous groups, including the Association of Oregon Counties, the League of Oregon Cities, the Metropolitan Mayors' Consortium and the Oregon School Boards Association want to kill the bill.

Their opposition stems not from a dislike of children but from Oregon's property tax limitations, which restrict property taxes to $5 per $1,000 of assessed value for education and $10 per $1,000 of assessed value for general government purposes.

Nearly all school districts and most local governments are already at those caps so if permanent taxing districts for children's services were to be created, they would take funding away from existing services.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is part of the mayors' group that filed testimony for a hearing today.

“Because [any new children’s taxing] district would levy its own tax rate, that rate would ‘compress’ our own permanent district rates on the general government side of the equation, meaning that cities, counties, and other special districts would stand to lose significant revenue as a result,” the letter from the mayor’s group says.
That letter sets up an interesting conflict because Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman created the Portland Children’s Levy in 2002 and has been its biggest booster since.
That levy provides $15 million a year for a variety of services for under-privileged children. For Saltzman, 64, who first won election to city council in 1998, the Children’s Levy is a legacy issue.
Were SB 123 to pass the House, it would cement his achievement. And although Saltzman has said he’ll seek re-election next year, speculation remains that were SB 123 to pass, he might not run for office again, providing an opening for numerous potential candidates.
The bill is scheduled for a public hearing and work session today in the House Revenue Committee at 2 pm.