Grand Bargain Agreement Reached In Salem Special Session

, Posted: Thu, October 3 2013 at 12:05 AM, Updated: Thu, October 3 2013 at 2:58 PM

Signed, sealed and headed for the Governor. The legislative special session adjourned just before 5 o'clock Wednesday night, but not before taking care of business.  Lawmakers voted yes on pension reform, state regulation of GMOs, and raising taxes.

Oregon lawmakers hammered it out for three full days and came to agreement on five key bills. The bills aim to give schools more money, freeze college tuition and reduce the costs of the public employee pension system, or PERS.

Senator Alan Bates said, "If we didn't do this we are going to have teachers with class sizes of 35, 40, 45, even some cases as high as 50. We just had to bring this PERS thing under control."

Senate Bills 861 and 862 reduce the yearly cost of living increase for retirees from 2% down to 1.25% on the first $60,000 in income, and down to .15% on any additional income above $60,000. It's estimated to save state and local governments more than $400-million a year.

June Buck is a retired teacher living on a pension. She said, "For goodness sake. Stop balancing the problems of the economy on the retired people who worked for years with the promise in front of you, then break the promise. It's just not right."

Another key bill approved by lawmakers gives control of GMOs to the state immediately.

Senator Bates said, "It allows state prohibition against any county deciding on its own if it wants to have GMO foods grown inside its county or not. The only exception is Jackson County. We got an amendment in for Jackson County, so we have a chance to vote on it in May."

Jackson county is the only exception, as voters are set to decide on a measure that would ban GMOs altogether.

Lawmakers also agree to some tax reforms. Taxes on Corporations and higher wage earners will go up, and the cigarette tax will go up 13-cents a pack.

The governor is expected to sign all five bills.

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