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Getting your taxes done right is complicated enough if you're a lifelong, English-speaking native. For immigrants who may not speak English and may be coming from countries with little to no tax enforcement, filing taxes can be even more difficult. Matthew Erdman is a lawyer who helps Latino immigrants file their taxes. He says he's had clients come to his office with boxes full of unopened letters from the IRS that they've avoided out of anxiety or general tax illiteracy. Erdman says some undocumented immigrants worry that filing their taxes may attract unwanted attention from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There are a number of places in Oregon where immigrants can get help filing taxes, but there are also predatory tax preparers that aim to take advantage of people not familiar with the tax system. What is the best way for immigrants to navigate taxes?
Segmentarticle - March 21, 2013
The legislative session officially kicked off in January but now is the time when the legislative session really gets going. On Monday, the co-chairs of the Ways & Means committee released the first draft (pdf) of the state budget, laying out their financial priorities for the next two years. The budget framework revealed on Monday would increase spending for Oregon schools by almost $1 billion over the last biennium. That's also more than Governor Kitzhaber allocated for schools in his budget proposal. In order to make those funds available, lawmakers propose reforming public employee retirement benefits as well as sentencing laws. The Ways & Means budget proposal reflects the priorities of Democratic lawmakers. Republicans countered with their own ideas (pdf) about how the state should spend and save money over the next two years. The Republicans also want to see a significant increase in money for education, but they criticized Democrats' approach to taxes.
Segmentarticle - March 6, 2013
Twenty people officially became U.S. citizens at the Central Library in Portland on Wednesday. The naturalization ceremony is the last step in a long process, which for many people involves being a resident of the U.S. for at least three years. Applicants have to answer questions like: Have you ever been a member of or in any way associated with a terrorist organization? Have you ever committed a crime for which you were not arrested? Do you owe any Federal, State, or local taxes that are overdue? Would-be citizens must also take an oath of allegiance and pass a test in order to demonstrate their knowledge of American civics. The test consists of 10 questions chosen at random from a list of 100 questions including: What does the Constitution do? Who makes federal laws? How many United States senators are there? Who becomes President if both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve? What cabinet-level agency advises the President on foreign policy? How many justices are on the Supreme Court? What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves? What did Susan B. Anthony do?
Segmentarticle - April 17, 2013
It's Friday, and so it's time for another news roundtable, our chance to review the big news of the week with a panel of journalists, editors and news watchers. This week we are discussing: The tax plan Democrats put forth in the Oregon Legislature this week President Obama's budget plan Portland City Council's settlement agreement on cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund site A man suing the City of Portland over his encounter with police
Segmentarticle - April 12, 2013
It's Friday, and so it's time for the news roundtable, our chance to review the big news of the week with a panel of journalists, editors and news watchers. This week we are discussing: Oregon House Democrats passed PERS reform, but saw their tax plan get dismantled Oregon Senate approved drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, but federal immigration reform may lose momentum after the Boston Marathon bombing George W. Bush saw a resurgence in approval ratings with the opening of his presidential library
Segmentarticle - April 26, 2013
A bill that would allow counties to levy their own cigarette taxes passed the Oregon House by a slim margin last week. HB 2870 would require counties to spend at least 40% of the money from cigarette taxes on public health, including smoking cessation programs. Proponents say this would give local governments more autonomy to create a much-needed revenue source, particularly for counties that are facing severe financial problems. Opponents argue that cigarette taxes disproportionately affect the poor and could hurt small businesses. The 31-29 House vote broke down along party lines, with only three Democrats voting against it and no Republicans voting for it. It now moves on to the Senate.
Segmentarticle - April 10, 2013
It's Friday, and so it's time for another news roundtable, our chance to review the big news of the week with a panel of journalists, editors and news watchers. This week we are discussing: The impacts of sequestration on a national and local level New support for same-sex marriage from prominent Republicans and corporations The future of Oregon's property tax laws
Segmentarticle - March 1, 2013
Right now credit unions are not-for-profit institutions that don't have to pay corporate excise taxes in Oregon. But House Bill 2486 would change that by imposing an excise tax on certain credit unions. Two other bills would increase regulation on those not-for-profit institutions by mandating community lending standards and disclosure of lending practices. Banks in Oregon argue the tax breaks credit unions enjoy are undeserved when many of them now compare with small banks in membership and capital. Scott Burgess, CEO/President of Rivermark Credit Union, says credit unions still deserve tax-exempt status because as credit-unions, we're not-for-profit and member-owned. Our focus is on making sure our members have lower loan rates, and higher deposit rates. Banks' focus may also be on the customer in part, but it's really going to be in enhancing share value."
Segmentarticle - March 11, 2013
Economists with Portland State University's Northwest Economic Research Center have just released a report on how an Oregon tax on carbon (pdf) might work. The researchers based their scenarios on the carbon tax in British Columbia, which they implemented in 2008. The BC tax was designed to be "tax neutral," meaning other taxes were reduced as the carbon tax was implemented. There are currently four bills that deal with a carbon tax in the Oregon legislature. A spokesman for Associated Oregon Industries says it's too early to tell whether the business group would support or oppose those proposals. But John Charles with the Cascade Policy Institute says Oregon already taxes carbon and that further taxes would be unnecessary and harmful. Report co-author Jenny Liu says that their analysis shows an Oregon carbon tax could actually boost the economy.
Segmentarticle - March 12, 2013
It's Friday, and so it's time for another news roundtable, our chance to review the big news of the week with a panel of journalists, editors and news watchers. This week we are discussing: California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act in front of the Supreme Court Portland's City Council struggling to figure out how to implement the arts tax The Oregon Senate Democrats' proposal to change PERS
Segmentarticle - March 29, 2013
The National Society of Actuaries released a study this week that looks at how much health care claims are predicted to rise in the wake of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over the next five years. Nationally, the figure is 31 percent. But in Oregon, the anticipated increase is more modest, at just 14 percent. As the study (pdf) says in its summary, the number of uninsured people and the cost increases vary greatly state to state. And the study notes that the impact of health care reform on premiums is not specifically addressed. Rather, it says the modeling is for "long term relative claims costs." But the study notes: Many aspects of the ACA will affect premiums, including changing benefit designs, new taxes and assessments, federal risk mitigation programs, minimum loss ratio rules, rate review rules and premium subsidies."
Segmentarticle - March 29, 2013
The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls much of the coal supply in the western United States. When the BLM leases coal to mining companies, the agency collects royalty payments on that land on behalf of American taxpayers. While there's been a recent rise in demand for U.S. coal on the Asian market, the royalty payments haven't kept pace. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has called for an investigation into this discrepancy. The main focus is on the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, which accounts for 40 percent of the coal produced in the United States.
Segmentarticle - Jan. 22, 2013
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire leaves office January 16th, after eight years as the state's executive. She entered office amidst a contentious battle over the 129 vote margin in the 2004 election. The lawsuit challenging her victory dragged on for the first five months of her term. Gregoire oversaw spending increases in her first term, and dealt with budget shortfalls in her second term. She also pushed a bill this year to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington, which passed the legislature, and was approved by voters in November. The push was a personal and political shift for Gregoire, who's Catholic and characterized the change as a "battle for me with my religion." In 2008, she had said that the state should ensure equal rights, but that churches should "make that call about marriage." Gregoire has left a recommended budget and a how-to guide for incoming Democrat Jay Inslee.
Segmentarticle - Jan. 3, 2013
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" — a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. Sixteen Democrats voted against the measure, three of whom were from Oregon: Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader. In a statement, DeFazio said the deal "pushes the spending cuts back just two months, creating yet another fiscal cliff crisis that coincides with the debt ceiling limit." The package does not include a reduction in Social Security payroll tax. So, most Americans will still end up paying more in taxes this year.
Segmentarticle - Jan. 2, 2013
Although the official start of the 2013 legislative session was in mid-January, the hard work of the session got underway this week. With Governor Kitzhaber undergirding his proposed budget with PERS reform and changes to the corrections system, lawmakers have a lot on their hands as they undertake the constitutionally mandated task of balancing the budget. Other issues they may tackle include medical liability limits, tax breaks and possibly gun control. We'll talk to Oregonian reporter Christian Gaston about what he's keeping his eye on as the session gets underway in earnest.
Segmentarticle - Feb. 5, 2013
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Audio - April 2, 2014
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Audio - March 19, 2014
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Segmentarticle - March 12, 2014