A shaky legislative deal may come Tuesday

A complicated budget deal known as the "Grand Bargain" may get a first reading Tuesday morning if a coalition of legislators holds firm.

"At first there was no deal, then a partial deal and now a deal again," Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, said. "It's still a little bit up in the air."

Gov. John Kitzhaber and various legislative leaders including Bates have held high-level meetings to work through the impasse on the Grand Bargain.

Kitzhaber has proposed a mix of tax increases on upper income earners as well as reforms for the Public Employees Retirement System. The goal is to boost education spending throughout the state.

Also on the table is Senate Bill 633 which would give the state the authority over regulating GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. The bill allows an exception for Jackson County, whose voters will consider an ordinance in 2014 that proposes a local ban on GMOs.

Bates said it has been particularly troublesome resolving issues over the revenue changes, which would raise taxes on upper income earners while offering tax breaks to small businesses.

"It's a real hodgepodge," Bates said.

He said the changes being proposed create far-reaching policy issues that are important to the state financially, he said.

An equitable approach has been difficult to work out for the retirement system reform.

He said the idea is to restrict cost-of-living increases on high-income retirees but create a system that doesn't penalize low-income retirees, who receive in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.

Despite the obstacles, Bates said he expects the bills to have a first reading tomorrow unless talks break down.

— Damian Mann

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