Inside Salem: Legislator’s Letter: An Update from Rep. Jeff Helfrich
At the beginning of September, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released updated projections that estimate Oregonians will have overpaid their taxes by nearly $5.6 billion. That means on 2024 tax filings, Oregonians will get the largest kicker tax credit in Oregon history.
I am a big supporter of the Kicker, but every time Oregonians are prepared to get some of their tax money back, some politicians use the opportunity to undermine the Kicker by saying it benefits the rich or the money would be better spent by the government.
First, it’s important to understand that your Kicker is proportional to how much you pay in taxes. The more you pay, the more you get back. Second, I always believe Oregon families are better at spending their money than the government.
You may hear misleading talking points attempting to convince you that Oregon doesn’t have money set aside in case the economy takes a downturn. That’s just not true.
In reality, we do have a Rainy Day Fund, and it’s almost as big as Oregon law allows. In other words, the Legislature could not put more money into the Rainy Day Fund without breaking the law.
The Kicker is the last line of defense against a government that seems to be always “running out” of money. It is an essential check and balance against runaway government spending.
While this Kicker may be the biggest we’ve seen, record inflation puts a damper on its purchasing power. Because of inflation, Oregonians’ wages inflated as well, pushing families into higher tax brackets - while not feeling the benefit of those wage gains because of increased prices on everyday goods. The money you are getting back because of the Kicker will also be in inflated currency. This is an example of how inflation acts as another tax on Oregonians.
The Kicker will be finalized on October 1, but you can get an idea of your estimated tax credit based on your income using the table at the end of this article.
I recently held a virtual town hall on the subject of water. Water usage is important for our local farmers, ranchers, and everyday consumers at home, especially with the drought much of the state has experienced over the last few years. Our water issues continue to impact small water districts especially hard, like the Rhododendron Water District.
The Legislature appropriated over $140 million toward water needs around the state last session. This included infrastructure for local water districts and a statewide strategy on how to better manage, find, and conserve water for the needs of agriculture and home consumers.
Water rights, conservation, and management are complicated subjects. That’s why I brought in the two water experts from the Legislature, Rep. Mark Owens (R-Crane) and Rep. Ken Helm (D-Beaverton) to join the conversation. I recorded the town hall so you can go back and listen to what the Legislature is up to regarding water. Watch that here: www.qr.codes/Ui3hQT.
Just last week, I was in Salem for legislative days. Every few months during the interim, legislators get together in the Capitol to discuss the implementation of newly passed legislation and begin having conversations about the upcoming 2024 session. I’ve heard from my colleagues about the topics they feel are most important from the state. I appreciate their perspectives, but the perspective I need most is yours. I serve you in Salem and need to hear from you to ensure your voice is heard. What do you think is the most pressing problem in Oregon? What should we be focusing on in 2024? Shoot me an email with your concerns and suggestions. My staff and I will use your feedback as we draft our policy agenda. I will also hold a virtual listening session on Wednesday, October 11, from 7-8 PM to get your feedback on the issues facing us as a state and how you want the Legislature to respond. To get the Zoom link, please RSVP at this link before 3 PM on the 11th: www.qr.codes/fmP3Zi
If you’re having any struggles with a government agency, please reach out to see if my office can help! Additionally, if you’ve had an awesome experience with a government employee or agency, tell me about that too! Politics can also be divisive, and I want to highlight the good. If you had a receptionist at City Hall or county clerk go above and beyond to answer your questions, I want to hear about it. I would love to give a shoutout to our hardworking government employees in my next column. The good and the bad, I want to hear it all.
As always, you can email me at Rep.JeffHelfrich@oregonlegislature.gov or call 503-986-1452.