In Short

Lawmakers, unions reach compromise on ending reimbursements for state employees living outside Oregon

By: - February 21, 2023 3:09 pm

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, left, talks with Raquel Moore-Green, a former state representative who now works for the Senate GOP, on the Senate floor at the Oregon state Capitol in Salem on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Public employee unions and state lawmakers have struck a deal on a proposal to stop state employees who moved out of state earlier in the pandemic from being reimbursed for traveling back to Oregon. 

Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, introduced Senate Bill 853 to ban the state from paying for travel costs for employees who live out of the state. All 30 senators and nearly half the representatives in the House signed onto the bill, but it ran into opposition from employee unions earlier this month. 

Knopp, Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland and employee unions reached a compromise, and the Senate Labor and Business Committee, which Taylor chairs, approved an amended version of the bill on Tuesday. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

As it stands, the bill would ban the state from paying for employee travel to and from Oregon if the employee lives more than 60 miles from the state, unless the employee is covered by a collective bargaining agreement that says otherwise. 

Only a small number of state employees would be affected if the measure passes. The state has more than 41,500 employees, the Department of Administrative Services told Taylor, and the vast majority of those workers work fully in person or in hybrid roles. About 6,800 employees are classified as fully remote, and only 432 have been confirmed to live outside Oregon. 

Knopp told the Capital Chronicle he doesn’t want to limit where state employees live. It’s their personal choice, he said. 

“That being said, I think everybody agrees that we don’t believe that the taxpayers should foot the bill in the state budget for a personal choice that you made to live somewhere other than Oregon or other than near your workplace,” Knopp said. 

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.