Beer. And coronavirus. And the Republican walkouts. And beer. This might be a small sampling of what goes through my mind as we're planning a special issue—like the Beer Issue—in the midst of some big news stories happening in our state. Our special issues let us shine a light on things our community loves, but the news doesn't wait. This week's issue is no different; you'll get some beer. And (news on) coronavirus. And the Republican walkouts. And more beer. Enjoy!
GUEST OPINION: Winners and Losers from the Premature Death of House Bill 4010
Until recently, it looked as though a tax subsidy for wealthy investors would finally have its day of reckoning. Oregon House Bill 4010 sought to pare back and make more transparent the so-called "Opportunity Zones" tax break. But a walkout by Republican lawmakers over climate change legislation imploded the 2020 legislative session, burying HB 4010 along with other important bills.
The untimely death of HB 4010 derailed what would have been the first real review of this dubious tax policy. "Opportunity Zones" is Oregon tax law, even though Oregon lawmakers never voted for it. "Opportunity Zones" arrived via the 2017 federal tax overhaul. This 400-plus tax bill sailed through Congress without a single hearing. Oregon got stuck replicating many tax breaks in the federal law, including "Opportunity Zones," because the state automatically connects to parts of the federal tax code.
Here is who won and lost from the premature death of HB 4010.
Winner: the ultra-rich
"Opportunity Zones" are tax cuts for capital gains income — the profits from selling stocks, real estate, and other such assets. To benefit, investors shift previously earned capital gains into "Opportunity Funds" that then invest in places designated as "Opportunity Zones." This allows investors to shrink their tax bill on capital gains income.
Capital gains is the income of the ultra-rich. The top one-tenth of 1 percent of Oregonians — the richest one out of every 1,000 Oregonians — together collect nearly the same amount of capital gains income as the bottom 99 percent of Oregonians. If "Opportunity Zones" appear made for the ultra-rich, it is because they are. They are the brainchild of Facebook billionaire Sean Parker, who used his deep pockets to lobby Congress for this tax subsidy.
Winner: lucky landowners and real estate developers
While "Opportunity Zones" are supposed to help revitalize distressed areas, the big money likely will go to areas already booming, offering the potential of large profits. In Bend, "Opportunity Zones" envelop some of the city's "most valuable real estate, stretching from the Deschutes River eastward to 27th Street, and from Reed Market Road north past Butler Market Road – essentially, the busiest corridors in the region," a local commercial real estate firm explains. For owners of property within those boundaries and real estate developers, "Opportunity Zones" are a windfall.
Loser: the vast majority of Oregonians
The vast majority of Oregonians will never profit from "Opportunity Zones," as they will never put a penny into an "Opportunity Fund." Worse, "Opportunity Zones" will siphon off Oregon taxpayer dollars — revenue that otherwise support schools and other essential public services. How much revenue Oregon will lose to "Opportunity Zones" is hard to predict. The loss may be modest or massive. Either way, the vast majority of Oregonians lose from this tax subsidy for wealthy investors.
Loser: communities at risk of displacement
Not only is there no requirement that the investments benefit low-income residents, "Opportunity Zones" threaten to accelerate gentrification. That's the process where wealthier residents move into a previously low-income neighborhood, pushing up rents and, eventually, pushing out long-term residents — often people of color.
The final chapter on "Opportunity Zones" has yet to be written. While HB 4010 died prematurely, the problems with the tax subsidy are too obvious to ignore. The day of reckoning for "Opportunity Zones" may yet arrive in 2021.
— Juan Carlos Ordóñez is the Communications Director for the Oregon Center for Public Policy (ocpp.org)
The Sent stagnant
Stress all around
What's it worth when you feel worthless?
Is fear the reason?
remote or when present
has a toll
Ceases the flow
My strength doesn't equate to anyone else's weakness,
Let me make decisions
I am qualified for.
When my talents are not acknowledged
My excitement squashed,
vision becomes slavery
The colors of the rainbow fade to grey
the shades don't matter,
feel like going back to bed.
Weight like lead
Set me free
Peace Justice n' Liberty
Freedom with limits
My talents never diminish
If everyone had access to health care, then we would need more doctors, nurses and facilities. Imagine how that would boost the economy! Thousands of living wage jobs just waiting to be filled! Medical schools and specialty programs bursting at the seams! People getting the care they need right away before it becomes deadly or 10x as costly to treat! People no longer having to beg for help if they have a chronic illness or cancer! That is the vision I see. As the only developed nation without a proper health care system, we are embarrassingly behind the times. Insurance companies have been sucking the working people dry for too long. It is time for the books to close on their profiteering free-for-all. The people demand it. We will not stop fighting for it, regardless of the election results.
Letter of the Week:
Thanks for the letter, Kay. Come one in for your gift card to Palate!
Corrections:In the 3/5 story "Coronavirus Comes to Oregon," we stated that Bend- La Pine Schools are advising people to stay home when they have a fever over 105. It's 100.5 degrees, not 105.
In the 2/26 story, "Room Tax Rift," the article did not include other ways transient room tax is allocated, beyond the City's General Fund. Four percent goes to police and fire and 31.2% goes to Visit Bend, the City's destination marketing organization. It also stated that vacation rental owners must purchase "a yearly operating license" for $275. Licenses cost $275 the first year; $200 every year after.
We regret the errors.