Oregon special session continues Tuesday

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SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Legislature continues deliberations Tuesday on a combination of changes to taxes, pensions and agricultural regulations.

A special session got off to a slow start Monday as Gov. John Kitzhaber and legislative leaders tried to hold together a flimsy agreement. For the second straight day, Tuesday was marked by delays as senior lawmakers and aides tried to work through remaining details.

Legislative leaders said Monday that the deal's fundamental outline remained intact and ongoing work centered on technical issues, such as how to be certain the tax changes don't end up costing more than projected.

The proposed pension cuts would reduce the annual inflation increase in retirees' checks. Lawmakers on a House and Senate joint committee considering the legislation heard emotional testimony from current and former public employees who said the change would have a lasting impact on them.

Under the tax changes, higher income individuals would face a higher tax bill because their ability to claim certain deductions would be limited. Certain businesses with more than $1 million in income would also pay more in taxes. Cigarette and tobacco taxes would go up.

Others would see a lower tax bill. The Earned Income Tax Credit for lower-income workers would be expanded, and certain types of businesses would pay a lower rate.

Local governments would be prohibited from regulating seeds and seed products. The measure is an attempt to supersede emerging efforts by environmentalists and organic food proponents to ban genetically modified crops at the county level in response to what they see as a lack of action by the state and federal governments.

Proponents say the changes are needed to free up money for struggling schools. Critics include public employees who say the state shouldn't be taking benefits promised to retirees, and environmentalists who say a measure on genetically modified crops has no place in the deal.