In Short

Proposal for luxury sales tax dies

By: - February 10, 2022 2:53 pm

A view of the House chambers from the Oregon State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

A proposal to add a 3% sales tax on snowmobiles, handbags, jewelry and firearms, among other luxury items over a certain price didn’t last long in the legislative session.

House Bill 4079, sponsored by Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, was pulled from the agendas for the House Committee on Human Services meeting on Tuesday this week and the House Committee on Revenue meeting scheduled for Thursday. 

A bill needs to first be discussed in a public hearing that allows public testimony to get a chance at passing.

In an email, Rep. Anna Williams, D-Hood River, chair of the Human Services Committee, said she killed the bill because it “faced a difficult path out of our committee and we had limited time to address concerns in a five-week session.”

The tax, which would have generated about $28 million a year, according to Witt, would have funded a program to supply upwards of 2,000 pregnant Oregonians and youth leaving the foster care system with $750 a month for three years on top of other state and federal benefits.

A similar program in California passed in 2021, and provides pregnant women and former foster youth with $500 to $1,000 each month. 

“Clearly, I am disappointed that the committee was unable to hear the merits of the bill, and there are many others who feel the same way, based on the number of people who have reached out to me and my staff,” Witt said in an email.

Witt said powerful interests succeeded in getting the bill killed.

“The rich and their lobbyists are very adept at muddying the waters to benefit their interests,” he wrote, “But working people in communities like Salem understand that it’s not them buying yachts and fur coats who will pay this luxury tax, it’s the rich and their minions.”

The 3% tax would have applied to firearms over $5,000, snowmobiles over $15,000, jewelry over $20,000 and handbags more than $500, among other goods.

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Alex Baumhardt
Alex Baumhardt

Alex Baumhardt is a reporter for Oregon Capital Chronicle. She has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post.