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Rose Englert
Rose Englert, CareOregon
Regulatory Affairs

Oregon Legislature addresses
budget before closure

The Oregon Legislature is now in high gear, with an eye to ending its annual session on June 14. Any bill that is not related to revenue or spending must pass out of policy committees by May 31 in order to come to the House and Senate for a vote. Legislative leaders also must come to an agreement on how to balance the budget before the legislature can adjourn, and Gov. Kitzhaber has been working with them to reach a consensus.

Medicaid Expansion and the ACA
A package of legislation that will make changes to state law to comply with the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is now making its way through the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

HB 2859 aligns the OHP with federal standards required to implement the Jan. 1, 2014 Medicaid/OHP expansion of some 200,000 new members statewide. Under the provisions of this bill, all citizens and legal US residents who have been in the country more than 5 years will be eligible for OHP if they are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In addition, OHP Standard no longer will be offered; all enrollees will be assigned to OHP Plus.

HB 2091 would combine all programs for children’s health insurance into OHP for families whose incomes are at or under 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

HB 2240 would implement federal requirements for commercial plans under the ACA.

Budget Matters
Good news! The final tax revenue forecast for the 2011-13 state budget showed an uptick of approximately $125 million over previous forecasts. Income tax returns for individual and joint filers will not be subject to the “kicker” tax rebates, but it appears that the level of corporate tax revenues will trigger a “kicker” of some $20 million returned to companies. However, there is a chance that the legislature will redirect the corporate kicker funds to be used for education.

Right now there is still a budget impasse. The Democrats are unwillingness to make additional changes to the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), and the Republicans are against increasing taxes, or creating new ones. Gov. Kitzhaber is hoping to negotiate a bipartisan budget compromise consisting of:

Reducing PERS spending by approximately $900 million;

Raising new revenues of $200 million through closing unspecified tax loopholes and doing away with some tax credits; and

Forming a workgroup to look at tax reductions for small businesses.

The governor says his highest priorities for any additional funding increases are (1) education (2) mental health and (3) child and protective services.