Oregon state Rep. Greg Barreto of Cove said he is eager to get working in his freshman legislative session. The Republican and business owner joined fellow lawmakers to take oaths office Monday at the Capitol in Salem.
Barreto is the new face for House District 58, succeeding Republican Bob Jenson, 83, of Pendleton, who opted to retire. The upcoming session is the first in which no state rep has called Pendleton home since 1996, when Jenson won his first election. That same year, voters sent Republican David Nelson of Pendleton to the Senate.
Barreto said there is some feeling of pessimism among his party that Democrats simply will force through proposals, given they control both chambers of the Legislature. But he said he is optimistic a couple of his proposals could win bipartisan support.
One involves giving a tax break to businesses that hire new workers. If a business, for example, expands its workforce by 30 percent, then it would receive a corresponding tax break. Barreto said this would be a way to encourage businesses to put more people to work.
Another would create an incentive to donate to educational institutions, such as state colleges. Under the plan, an individual could contribute up to $1,000 a year, married residents filing joint tax returns could give up to $4,000, and a business could give up to $20,000. In exchange, he said, contributors would get a 50 percent tax credit for how much they gave.
Idaho has had some success with a similar plan, he said. He also said the proposal has a five-year sunset. That gives it an opportunity to work, and lets it die if it does not.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, appointed Barreto to serve on committees for agriculture and natural resources, business and labor, and education. He said he was happy with the selections, particularity the first two.
“That’s the heart of what we are over there,” he said of Eastern Oregon.
Barreto also said he was looking forward to sitting with state Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, for bi-monthly video conferences with local leaders during the 2015 session. Jenson and Nelson started that tradition some years back.
So far, Barreto said, lawmakers from both sides of the political divide have been friendly, but he knows the place will get a bit more intense as the session moves forward.