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Legislators wrong to OK hidden gas tax

Those of us in Washington County spend a lot of time stuck in traffic. Thanks to the recent votes of three Washington County legislators, that’s not going to change any time soon.

With less than a month of hearings behind them, our new elected officials — who masqueraded as moderates leading up to last November’s election — are showing their true colors. State Sen. Chuck Riley and state representatives Susan McLain and Joe Gallegos abandoned their promises to look out for working families and the middle class by passing a hidden gas tax disguised as a “clean fuel standard.”

The bill awaits only our new governor’s signature, which is ironic, because it’s the very bill that took down John Kitzhaber.

At the centerpiece of the Cylvia Hayes scandal was Senate Bill 324, an artfully worded cap-and-trade bill for the middle class. Powerful out of state interests lobbied the first lady and our Democratic legislators to attach impossible fuel standards to Oregon distributors. Those who don’t have the access to limited supply of these fuels will be forced to buy “credits” from those that do, driving the cost of gas up for everyone.

Scandal aside, the bill speaks to the out-of-touch priorities of our elected Democratic lawmakers, and how they contrast with the values of Washington County citizens.

Cost estimates at the pump vary, but the most consistent seems to be around 18 cents per gallon. Republicans wanted to talk about a transportation package that may have included a gas tax increase — which is now off the table because of the coming price hikes brought by Senate Bill 324.

In 2009, the Legislature passed a 6-cent gas tax increase as part of the Jobs and Transportation Act. This increase brought in $273 million in funding for roads. Among the projects awarded were the Highway 26 modernization project and the Shute and Glencoe road exchanges.

The “Clean Fuel Standard” that just passed will likely cost you three times that increase at the pump, and give you nothing in return but the thanks of out of state special interests. Few are more thankful than California hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who indirectly funded most of our newly-elected officials through a shell game of nonprofits and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.

Legislative budgets are about choices. We have finite resources with which to fund our priorities. If you’re going to pay an extra 18 cents per gallon for gas, wouldn’t you like that money to go toward improvements to highway interchanges, bike lanes, wider roads and bypasses?

Instead, you’re getting a complicated system of cap-and-trade credits for carbon standards with a limited environmental benefit that is largely symbolic.

It’s time for the middle class to hold politicians accountable to their campaign promises to fight for the middle class. This legislation is the subject of well-documented corruption that will cost you more at the pump without anything of tangible value in return.

On the plus side, you’ll have plenty of time to think about it while sitting in traffic.

Mark Richman and Dan Mason were the Republican nominees for Oregon House District 29 and House District 30, respectively, in the 2014 general election.

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