As I sit in my office on this week in early June, I am thoroughly frustrated with the legislative process in Oregon. My party is in the minority both in the House and the Senate, and is often marginalized.
Yet there is one thing we have, thanks to the Oregon Constitution, that makes us relevant: our vote. Our constitution requires a three-fifths majority to pass a revenue increase, which means one minority party vote from each chamber.
You have probably heard in the news coverage, that there's a "shortfall" of (depending on which story you read) $1.4-1.8 billion in Oregon.
There's more to this than meets the eye however. You see, Oregon has taken in RECORD amounts of revenue — that means OUR (yours and mine) money via taxes — to the tune of over 30 percent more in the last six years, including over $1.5 billion this biennium alone and over $200 million in the most recent quarter! That's a TON of money.
So, you ask, "What shortfall?" There is NO shortfall — there's the difference between what revenue is coming in and what the Oregon Legislature would like to spend.
As I've said a thousand times, "Oregon doesn't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem!"
Things have really heated up here with rumors changing daily on if there really will be a revenue package or a transportation package. From what I'm currently hearing, it is unlikely that there will be a transportation package.
One of the key "catches" is that it will not, even if it passed, eliminate or reduce the "Low Carbon Fuel Standard" which the legislature passed in 2016. It has been estimated we'll be paying an extra 22 cents a gallon by 2025 JUST for the LCFS program, not counting any new taxes from a transportation package for building roads and bridges!
One of the budgets I personally care the most about is the K-12 education budget. This budget finally passed out of the Ways and Means Committee recently and went first to the Senate floor and then passed 25-5.
I am proud that Sen. Kim Thatcher, R– Keizer, voted no. Why? Because $8.2 billion is not enough. Due to the high cost of PERS and other payroll-related items, the kids will be "shorted" a lot of money with this budget.
In the House we recently passed the Oregon State Library budget. In it the co-chairs cut out a very important item: the "Ready to Read" program — $250,000 of a $17 million budget. I will be a no vote on the K-12 budget if it comes to the House for the same reason: It's not enough.
Finally, some good news! An important bill for me finally passed both the House and Senate this week. HB 2598 puts motorcyclists in the same category as bicyclists and pedestrians when hit by "reckless" drivers. My dear friends who are "bikers" have been working on this for a long time and with the help of Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, we got it done this year.