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State sees benefits of legislation

Two Views • House speaker says Legislature had its successes, but business advocate believes tax hikes will hurt
by: L.E. Baskow, Children play on a Brooklyn Park merry-go-round. While one writer claims that raising the state’s corporate minimum tax will hurt many small businesses, another writer is relieved that lawmakers provided children with health insurance and helped fix our state’s roads.

While all you seem to see these days in the media are stories about how some corporations and their lobbyists are angry at the Legislature for finally raising the $10 corporate minimum tax, there's a much larger group of Oregonians who are happy with the work the legislature did this sessions - Oregon's 80,000 uninsured children.

On Oct. 1, the two laws that the 2009 Legislature passed to provide Oregon kids with health insurance coverage go into effect. Many of us in the Legislature believe those two bills - House Bills 2009 and 2116 - will eventually be considered two of the most important bills we passed this session.

Unlike the debate on health care in our nation's capital, legislators from the House and Senate, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, hospitals, insurers and providers came together to solve a problem that has been plaguing our state (and most other states) for decades - and we succeeded.

Providing access to health care for our uninsured kids and controlling the costs of our health care system will pay dividends for Oregon far into the future. Healthier kids mean fewer visits to the emergency room. Minor illnesses will be addressed before they become major illnesses. Kids will perform better in school and have a better chance at succeeding in life.

Meanwhile, because these kids can now get preventive care, you and I will no longer be forced to pay for the expensive, uncompensated care they often receive today. It's one way we will begin to put the brakes on the rapidly escalating costs of our health care system.

Another key bill we passed this year go into effect on Oct. 1 - our new Jobs and Transportation Act. Here again, the Legislature demonstrated that we can come together in a bipartisan way to solve a critical problem facing our state - the decades-old disinvestment in our transportation infrastructure that's created gridlock, hurt businesses that rely on moving freight and force parents into lengthy commutes when they should be spending time at home.

While it will cost the average Oregon family with two cars less than $10 a month when fully implemented, the short-term job gains and the long-term benefits to our transportation system - from our state highways and local roads to bike trails and better bus service for seniors - are well worth the costs. And remember, you won't see any increases in gas taxes to pay for this system until we have two straight quarters of economic growth or January 2011.

Every city and county in Oregon will receive half the proceeds generated by the Jobs and Transportation Act and will have the ability to fund important maintenance, preservation, and modernization projects in their communities.

Unlike California and many other states, the Oregon Legislature faced this global recession head-on. Yes, we made billions in budget cuts. But we also passed these new laws that will proactively spur Oregon's economy, create thousands of new Oregon jobs, and pay us huge dividends in the decades to come.

And we protected the core services of education, health care and public safety on which so many Oregonians rely.

While our kids may not realize it today, we helped pave the way to a much brighter future for Oregon.

Dave Hunt is speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. He lives in Clackamas County.