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OR Proposal: Stop Kicking Folks When They’re Down

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 By Deb CoursonContact
May 26, 2009

Portland, OR – Every dollar counts for the thousands of Oregonians who have lost their jobs, and one legislative proposal would exempt the first $2400 in unemployment benefits from state income taxes. It's a tax break already in place for federal income taxes. District 2 State Senator Jason Atkinson (R-Central Point) is the sponsor of SB 975.

"Look, this is the wrong thing to do, tax somebody while they're down, and my bill simply eliminates taxation on unemployment benefits."

Sen. Atkinson and backers of the bill, including the Oregon AFL-CIO, are asking that it be scheduled for a hearing soon. They're concerned the legislature could run out of time to consider the proposal as the session winds down next month.

Duke Shepard, political director for the Oregon AFL-CIO, says low- to moderate-income families would see about $150 more in their pockets if the bill is passed.

"It could help keep some families from having to go the food bank for one more week. It could keep gas in the car, could help somebody pay their phone bill and get that next job."

At 12 percent, Oregon's unemployment rate is the second highest in the country; only Michigan, at 12.9 percent, is higher. Opponents of SB 975 are concerned about the potential impact on state coffers; supporters claim it is minimal and point out that benefits beyond the $2400 mark would be taxed as usual.

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