BILL OF THE WEEK: Senate Bill 543
CHIEF SPONSORS: Sen. Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro), Rep. Sheri Schouten (D-Beaverton).
WHAT PROBLEM IT SEEKS TO SOLVE: Oregon has a short school year, produces terrible educational results, and doesn't provide much funding for art, music or extracurricular activities.
WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO: Allow local jurisdictions to establish taxing districts that would take a cut of local property taxes—as does the Portland Children's Levy, birthed by then-City Commissioner Dan Saltzman in 2002.
WHO SUPPORTS IT: Advocacy groups such as Children First for Oregon and the Oregon Education Association, and groups that might get funding, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs. Saltzman, now retired, submitted testimony in favor of the bill. Riley, whose wife is an early childhood educator, has introduced this bill four times. It's got legs this year, however, having already won passage in the Senate.
WHO OPPOSES IT: Many cities and counties, including Riley's hometown of Hillsboro and his home county, Washington, which fear that property tax limitations dictate that a new taxing district would take money away from existing public services. "We have got to get out of the business of pitting one critical service against another in this state," testified Riley's Democratic colleague, Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson of Gresham, explaining her opposition to the bill.