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There are several bills in the Oregon Legislature that would drive up already high labor costs for Oregon family farms and every small business along Oregon’s agricultural food chain.

HB 3031 paid family leave tax bill: This bill would create a new 1% tax on businesses to pay for a new statewide family leave program. A 1% tax on payroll would be taken from both the employer and employee, leaving less wages for the worker.

HB 3262 Employee on public assistance tax: HB 3262 would tax larger companies if any of their workers received certain public assistance. It is unclear how this would impact the seasonal harvest industry which helps many lower income people ordinarily have a job if it was not for the farmer. These farmers would be penalized with a new tax burden.

HB 2020 Carbon tax: This bill would in effect increase gasoline costs by 16-cents and utilities bills 10-30% depending on the size of the business. The sudden spike in the cost of doing businesses (especially if the farmer was caught in a bad harvest or product price decline) would impact future hiring and wage increases.

SB 726 Employer liability on workplace harassment bill. The bill contains numerous workplace harassment enforcement provisions for Oregon businesses. One controversial component of the bill appears to hold business owners and officers personally liable for the harassment that occurs within the workplace. Depending on the legal interpretations of the bill, the worst case scenario could open up the floodgates for jackpot justice lawsuits which would then see insurance rates skyrocket as they have in similar circumstances. The business community wishes to make sure the bill’s recommendations are fair and balanced to all parties.

Workers Compensation change: Oregon Governor Kate Brown has drafted a plan to sell the state’s workers compensation insurance corporation (SAIF) or to utilize its reserve funds as a way to pay down some of the $26 billion debt incurred by the Public Employee Retirement system (PERS). Changes to Oregon’s workers compensation system could cause rates to increase.