UPDATED: 'Grand Bargain' clears House while Senate continues work

Updated 4:50 p.m. The Oregon Legislature has given final legislative approval to two bills on controlling public pension costs and a third on genetically modified crops

That puts legislators three-fifths of the way toward completing the “Grand Bargain” that would control PERS retiree pension costs and raise more money for schools and other programs.

The House has passed all five of the bills that make up the package. The Senate is expected to vote on the two tax-related bills remaining in the package later today.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has vowed to veto the bills unless all five reach his desk.

Updated 3:25 p.m. Here's what has passed so far today in the Oregon Legislature's special session:

House Bill 3601 — Passed the House, 36-22. Raises taxes on some high earners and enacts various other tax hikes and reductions.

House Bill 5101 — Passed the House, 52-3. Takes the money raised through the tax measures and directs it to schools and other programs.

Senate Bill 861 — Passed the Senate, 22-7. Reduces cost of living raises for PERS recipients.

Senate Bill 862 -- Passed the Senate, 27-2. Changes calculation for how PERS is allocated for some retirees and prohibits some convicted felons from receiving PERS benefits.

Senate Bill 863, Passed the Senate 17-12. Prevents local governments from regulating genetically modified plants. The bill would not apply to a Jackson County measure set for the May 2014 ballot.

Updated 2:55 p.m. SALEM — The Oregon Legislature has approved the first pieces of a five-bill package aimed at lowering public-employee pension costs and raising new revenue for education, mental health and services for seniors.

Voting is expected to continue through the afternoon.

The House passed a measure raising taxes for some businesses and individuals and lowering them for others. The Senate backed a lower annual inflation increase in pension checks for retired government workers.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has been trying for nearly a year to build support for lowering public-employee pension costs. To make that palatable in the Legislature, the pension cuts were packaged with tax changes and a measure prohibiting cities and counties from banning genetically modified crops.

Legislative leaders and Kitzhaber have agreed that the bills will live or die together, so the failure of any single measure would derail the entire five-bill package.

12:45 p.m.SALEM — The Oregon House has approved the first piece of a five-bill package aimed at lowering public-employee pension costs and raising new revenue for education, mental health and services for seniors.

The approval came today after the bill initially appeared to fail. After a long delay, three Democrats changed their votes and gave the measure the three-fifths supermajority it needed to pass.

The measure would raise taxes on some businesses and individuals while lowering them for others. It also would increase taxes on tobacco products.

Critics take issue with a tax break for certain types of businesses, saying it would be a giveaway for rich people. Proponents say it would spur business hiring.

The measure now goes to the Senate, which is expected to take it up promptly.

— Associated Press

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