Time is running out with many issues left on legislative agenda


Oregon's legislators have been holed up in the Capitol for nearly six months, and they could be out in two weeks, maybe sooner.

But on many agendas, much remains to be done.

For example:

"" College Buildings: High on Gov. Ted Kulongoski's list is university and community college construction. Western Oregon University and Chemeketa Community College hope to get more money for academic buildings. House Majority Leader Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, said a deal is near, though it's likely to be the final budget bill of the session.

"" Department of Human Services: Senior advocates and other social services providers are nervous about this one, but Hunt said the final budget likely will provide $96 million more than legislative budget chiefs proposed earlier.

"" Judiciary: Kulongoski wants higher salaries for judges. Oregon brings up the rear nationally in this category.

"" State troopers: Republicans still are pressing Democrats to fund about 40 more police to provide around-the-clock patrols.

"" Affordable Housing: This could be the rare tax increase that gains enough House Republican votes to pass. A bill boosting recording fees for real estate documents needs at least five House Republican votes and they may well be there.

"" Earned-income tax credit: Tax relief for the working poor, made possible by taxing the rich more, may be in trouble. "I don't know if we'll get that through," said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.

"" Pollution tax credit: Hunt said it's on his "short list" to extend this tax break for industry. But Senate Democrats leaders aren't enthused. "That has not been talked about in a long while," Courtney said.

"" Corporate minimum tax: Raising the $10 minimum tax that many corporations pay appears to be dead. "It's not going to happen," said Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland. It could wind up on the ballot, though.

"" Ethics reform: Lawmakers of both parties pledged to clean up ethics laws. Democratic leaders are promising that a reform package will pass both chambers.

"" Immigration-Real ID: Republicans keep pressing the issue, but Democrats aren't. "I don't think we're going to end up doing anything on immigration," Courtney said. But Brown said Democrats believe Republicans will try to use that against them in 2008. As a result, she expects some action at a special session next February, before the primary races.

"" Mobile homes: A consensus bill to help mobile home owners, crafted by a landlord-tenant coalition, is in jeopardy because lawmakers wouldn't agree to pre-empt city ordinances. "If that coalition is split, it is a very rocky road," Brown said. But Hunt sees potential for compromise.

"" Gift cards: A Senate proposal to give schools the money from expired gift cards is dead. But a House measure to bar expiration dates on the cards is primed to pass.

Ready to go:

"" Healthy kids-cigarette tax increase: The House expects to pass this soon and put it before voters. A construction excise tax for school districts, a constitutional amendment to loosen the double-majority voter turnout requirement, biofuels tax credits and a smoking ban in bars and restaurants also are on the way to passage.

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