Top GOP Senator Says State of Oregon Shouldn’t Pay Travel Expenses for Remote Workers

About 500 state employees have relocated out of state. Tim Knopp says their travel back to Oregon should be at their expense.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) reacted strongly to a story WW published this week that reported the Oregon Lottery is paying travel expenses for two senior managers who have relocated to Sun Belt states.

Related: New State Policy Allows Senior Oregon Lottery Managers to Live in Sun Belt States With No Income Taxes

The story noted that in addition to avoiding Oregon income taxes, the agency has covered the two managers’ travel expenses back to Salem for meetings—at a total cost of about $2,000 for each manager so far in 2022.

“This is deeply unfair to thousands of public employees who do not get reimbursed to drive or take public transit to work,” Knopp said in a statement.

“In 2023, I will introduce legislation to end this wasteful practice,” he added. “If employees of the state of Oregon want to live out of state, that is their business. That doesn’t mean taxpayers should be on the hook for the plane ticket.”

State officials told WW that about 500 employees have so far taken advantage of a new state policy instituted last year that allows employees to keep their jobs while permanently relocating elsewhere. (Those employees who relocate permanently to another state only owe Oregon taxes on the days they physically work in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Revenue.)

Knopp doesn’t have a problem with remote work—just the lottery’s decision to cover the travel costs of employees who have chosen to live in other states.

(The state policy says “employees who work under the full-time remote work model must be reimbursed by the agency for travel to and from the central workplace.”)

Employees are allowed to move out of state on a case-by-case basis, with managers’ approval. The Department of Administrative Services say that 69 managers and 421 employees have moved so far. The top three agencies for out-of-state work are the Department of Human Services (175), the Oregon Health Authority (89), and the Oregon Department of Transportation (60).

Liz Merah, a spokeswoman for Gov. Kate Brown, says the pandemic forced the state to reexamine how employees work.

“Within state government, we have evolved to a place where remote and hybrid work is encouraged when feasible,” Merah says. “This has allowed us to better address the needs of today’s workforce and improve our competitiveness, as an employer, with the private sector.”

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