By editorial board • 

Short session wrong venue for new ventures

If there’s anything more certain as death and taxes these days, it’s this: Tax talk will dominate the off-year 35-day legislative session starting Feb. 1.

The only question is, will the focus be some sort of replacement for the health care tax enacted last session to shore up the state’s financially battered Medicaid program, or will it be a grand new carbon tax filling the West Coast gap between Washington to the north and California to the south?

We’re betting money on the latter, because we’re expecting voters to reject a Republican referendum aimed at overturning the health care tax. Yet it leaves us with mixed emotions.

We support the health care tax, appearing on Tuesday’s special election ballot as Measure 101, so would be disappointed to see the session devoted to taking another shot at closing a yawning Medicaid gap. But we harbor misgivings about the enormously complicated emissions-capping scheme embraced by our two larger neighbor states.

We are particularly concerned about Legislature wading into such nebulous complexity during an abbreviated off-year session, brush aside more pressing environmental needs in the process and proceed without a shred of support from Republican lawmakers or ordinary citizens.

Wherein lies the justification for a one-party stampede compressed into 35 hasty days? Legislative leaders may claim to be hearing some sort of groundswell or clamor from the electorate, but nothing of the sort is evident to us.

It appears the real impetus arises from organized labor and the environmental movement, both of which play outsized funding and foot soldier roles in Democratic Party politics. If so, they should be asked to first build requisite support by Oregonians, then bring their cause to the full-length 2019 session, where it can get the kind of thoughtful consideration such bold new ideas demand if they are to find favor and prove successful.

We are not opposed to exploring a cap and trade system to encourage industry to invest in ever more efficient emission controls. We are, however, opposed to taking the plunge on the basis of a whirlwind courtship.

Are there environmental causes holding promise of engendering simpler solutions with broader support? Indeed, there are.

A recent Secretary of State audit revealed more than 75 percent of the state’s large industrial polluters were operating on expired permits, the worst now two decades out of date, because of a chronic Department of Environmental Quality backlog. In the words of the Eugene Register-Guard, we’ve been left with an agency “unable to enforce existing air pollution regulations, let alone new ones.”

That’s because DEQ staffing has been cut almost 30 percent during the last 15 years, despite domination of both the legislative and executive branches by the environmentally friendly Democratic Party.

How could that be, you ask? Simple.

The environmental lobby and its party of choice seem to forever be chasing grander projects of greater reach and complexity — like cap and trade, aka the carbon tax. The self-styled visionaries have moved on, leaving more mundane matters, like holding industrial polluters to account, to beleaguered bureaucrats.
 

Comments

Rotwang

We voters were sold the idea that the legislature would be tweaking the budget, and nothing else, during these short sessions. Two years ago, it seemed like a race to pass as many badly-conceived and dangerous laws as possible, and most had nothing to do with the budget. We voters got screwed with more government, twice as often. It would be nice if they confined their activity to taxes. I voted NO on 101 to make sure that they do.

Don Dix

Listing the Oregon legislature's most noticeable qualities: Making false promises, covertly changing priorities, and always moving the goalposts -- nothing else really garners any attention.

VE

There are no borders to stop poison air. Even the children do polluters aren’t safe but the polluters think there are imaginary borders to keep their families safe. As a person who got adult onset athsma by living downwind of polluters, I can say the health costs are not worth it.

VE

There are no borders to stop poison air. Even the children do polluters aren’t safe but the polluters think there are imaginary borders to keep their families safe. As a person who got adult onset athsma by living downwind of polluters, I can say the health costs are not worth it.

VE

There are no borders to stop poison air. Even the children do polluters aren’t safe but the polluters think there are imaginary borders to keep their families safe. As a person who got adult onset athsma by living downwind of polluters, I can say the health costs are not worth it.

VE

There are no borders to stop poison air. Even the children do polluters aren’t safe but the polluters think there are imaginary borders to keep their families safe. As a person who got adult onset athsma by living downwind of polluters, I can say the health costs are not worth it.

VE

There are no borders to stop poison air. Even the children do polluters aren’t safe but the polluters think there are imaginary borders to keep their families safe. As a person who got adult onset athsma by living downwind of polluters, I can say the health costs are not worth it.

VE

I only made one comment yet it shows up too many times.. I guess I hit the wrong button. Sorry

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