Bill Banning Taxpayer-Funded Travel for Out-of-State Workers Finds Broad, Bipartisan Support

In a time of unprecedented political divide in the modern era, at least one proposal in the 2023 Oregon Legislative Session has found widespread, bipartisan support.

Introduced by Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, Senate Bill 853 would ban taxpayer dollars from funding out-of-state travel reimbursements for state workers.

Knopp has been joined by all 29 of his state Senate colleagues in sponsoring the bill, along with nearly half of the House, including representatives from both parties.

While seemingly a no-brainer, the legislation is aimed at a very specific, Covid-era policy allowing state employees to work remotely while living in states with no income tax, and having their travel reimbursed by taxpayers.

The policy, which was unearthed in an exposé by Willamette Week last August, states that “employees who work under the full-time remote work model must be reimbursed by the agency for travel to and from the central workplace.”

The practice does not appear to be widespread. WW reported that fewer than 500 state employees live in other states full-time — less than 2% of all state employees.

But the number includes some of the top employees at state agencies, including two Oregon Lottery executives, both of whom earn more than $125,000 per year, according to WW, and relocated to states with no income tax.

If passed, the bill would not ban the state’s remote workers from living outside Oregon — but it would prohibit those employees from being reimbursed with taxpayer dollars for work-related travel and expenses.

“Last summer, I heard from taxpayers and state employees alike who were outraged at the practice of reimbursing travel for out-of-state, highly-paid government workers to be flown back to Oregon to do their job at taxpayer expense,” Knopp said in a press release.

“It’s a fundamental equity issue. Most local state employees don’t get paid to commute to work.”

The bill has been sponsored by 26 state representatives so far, including Representative James Hieb, of Canby.

“It’s just plain common sense that state workers who choose to live outside Oregon and do not pay their fair share of state income taxes should not get help from the taxpayers when they must travel back to Oregon to do their jobs,” Hieb said in a statement to the Current.

“In my opinion, this practice should have never been allowed in the first place, but I am glad to see there is broad, bipartisan support for ending it as soon as possible.”

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