A Plan for Legislative Republicans

Are you hoping for a Republican resurgence in Oregon in 2008? If so, Republicans are going to have to start now to describe a clear difference between themselves and the Democrats along with a reason to vote Republican.

Several years ago the Republican legislative leaders met to try to stem the continuing erosion of their majority in both houses of the Oregon legislature. The featured speaker at that gathering was a political consultant from back east recommended by Sen. Gordon Smith. The key message from this consultant was that if you want to get elected as a Republican in Oregon you need to refrain from mentioning any issues that have defined the Republican Party for years — individual responsibility, tax reform, government accountability, opposition to abortion on demand, etc. Instead, the consultant urged that candidates to talk about safe subjects which would not offend, which would not define stark contrasts with the Democrats — in other words, run as Democrats but just not as radically liberal.

There was no formal decision to follow such advice but, from the lack of any definitive agenda by Republican legislative leaders, it would appear that candidates defaulted to the advice. Oregon is a default Democrat state — in other words, lacking any reason to vote Republican, voters will default to the Democrats. With no clear reason to vote for Republicans in 2004 and 2006 voters did just that. The result is that not only do the Democrats control every statewide office, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, but now both house of the legislature and in the case of the Senate, by a two-thirds majority.

To date, no such reason to vote otherwise has been offered for the 2008 legislative election either.

A review of the Oregon Republican Party platform is not encouraging. The state party platform spends an inordinate amount of time on social issues and matters that are most appropriately addressed at the federal level. No plan is advanced for immigration reform or for improving school performance. Only one sentence is dedicated to tax reform. No commitment had been made to resist imposition of new taxes as Oregon’s economy turns downward in the looming recession.

Failure to address decisively the current problems facing Oregon will ensure that Republicans remain in the minority. A continuation of such aversion to conflict will eventually doom the Republicans to irrelevancy.

Following are three proposals that will draw stark differentiation with Oregon’s liberal Democrats, address current critical problems in Oregon and resonate easily with a majority of Oregon voters.

1. Illegal immigration. Adopt an aggressive employer sanctions law similar to the one in Arizona that revokes the business license of any employer knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant. The employer sanction law should be followed by a law that prohibits the use of any state funds to provide health, welfare or educational services to illegal immigrants. If you remove the incentives for illegal immigration, the flow of illegal immigrants will diminish significantly.

In a state with limited financial resources and stagnant economic growth, the limited resources of the state should be directed to those lawfully here and should not be diminished by distribution over a larger number of people who are not legally here.

2. Tax reform. Increase the amount of income exempt from taxation to the level of Oregon’s minimum wage. Currently those with the lowest incomes in Oregon pay more in Oregon state income tax than in federal income tax. Exempt one-half of capital gains from state income tax. Re-couple depreciation schedules with those used in the federal income tax system. Exempt from the inheritance tax those portions of an estate that pass to the benefit of a spouse or direct lineal descendants.

Every tax proposal should be viewed as to its near and long term impact on Oregon’s economic performance. Elimination of taxes on income below the minimum wage will provide an immediate and continuing economic stimulus — unlike the recent federal stimulus package — and it provides symmetry between tax policy for the state and wage policy imposed by the state. Reform of the capital gains tax and improving the depreciation schedules will encourage investment and growth in business that, in turn, provides new jobs. Reform of inheritance tax ensures that families will not have to borrow money to pay taxes in order to preserve a family business, particularly small main street businesses and farms and ranches.

3. Education reform. Pledge to fund K-12 education at whatever level necessary to improve performance to a level in the top quadrant of national performance. Couple any increased funding with a program to enhance performance by teachers, administrators and students which includes:
ï‚· Merit pay based on teacher performance
ï‚· Elimination of tenure for the bottom ten percent of teachers based on performance evaluation.
ï‚· Exempt teachers accused of sexual crimes with students from any union disciplinary process thus speeding the process for termination.
ï‚· Provide for prompt removal of school administrators in failing schools and transfer of administration to other neighboring schools.

The battle continues as to what is necessary to improve Oregon’s education performance. Currently Oregon continues to decline in performance vis-à-vis other states and, as a result, against other nations. For the past twenty years, the public employee and teachers unions have ruled the day with demands for increased funding. The past legislative session increased funding for K-12 by over $1 billion dollars — eighty-five percent of which was used to pay for increased teachers’ salaries, health benefits and retirement. While some new teachers were hired, neither student teacher ratios nor academic performance were improved materially.

If the policies pursued by the education community (principally the public employee unions) have failed for twenty years it is time to demand performance improvement as a prerequisite to increased funding. None of the ideas proposed are new and yet none have been tried in Oregon. It is time to demand accountability.

It isn’t necessary for Republicans to specifically embrace these proposals but it is necessary for them to promote bold solutions to Oregon’s continuing problems that will never be addressed by Democrats.

  • Jerry

    You are absolutely, dead-on correct. Sadly, I don’t see the weak, unfocused, dilly-dallying Repubs doing anything differently. They have certainly lost my support. They are so weak now it is a joke. They have lost their conservative roots and they have lost their way politically. They don’t deserve our support at this point.

    And, they don’t have it.

  • eagle eye

    “The battle continues as to what is necessary to improve Oregon’s education performance. Currently Oregon continues to decline in performance vis-à-vis other states and, as a result, against other nations. For the past twenty years …”

    Could you please give the evidence for this?

  • eagle eye

    “Elimination of taxes on income below the minimum wage … provides symmetry between tax policy for the state and wage policy imposed by the state.”

    Oh, great, not only will Oregon have sky-high minimum wage laws, the income will be tax free. We can become the national mecca for coffee-servers and burger flippers. Sorry, we can build on our status as the national mecca ….

    And oh, by the way, what is the detailed plan for cutting state services in the wake of these lower taxes?

    • John Fairplay

      Folks on minimum wage pay almost no state taxes currently. Exempting them would amount to a rounding error in total state revenue. There would be no need to reduce the tremendous rate of increase in spending that’s currently going on.

      • eagle eye

        If it would make no difference then what is the point?

        • rogue

          What’s the point, you ask? To co-opt low earners into the anti-tax brigades. Not very difficult logic to follow, really. Every penny helps when you’re making the minimum wage. Even if it just goes to booze or pot.

          Once you get someone comfortable voting “R”, they will probably stay that way moving up the economic ladder.

          And the rest of the suggestions are really quite sound, Larry. Kudos.

          Good luck getting the party off its ass.

          • eagle eye’s ghost

            Good luck with that scheme! The mimimum wage people are not as dumb as you think.

          • NotYourDaddy

            Well if they vote against their own best interest, then they’re dumber than I thought…

            Giving them a reason to vote Republican sounds like a good idea to me. But maybe I’m the dumb one. What am I missing, eeg?

          • eagle eye’s ghost

            Low income people get a lot of benefit from the state government and anything that would actually cut state services would hurt them much more than any marginal or non-existent tax advantage would help.

  • RinoWatch

    Sadly we are still paying for the betrayals of the past. Backlund & Gallegos, Morse, Berger, just to mention a few.

    Promoting “bold solutions” is one thing – sticking to them once elected is quite another.

  • KFC

    Oregon Republicans have indeed bought into the “Democrat-lite” message of Gordon Smith, who at this moment doesn’t have my vote for reelection, even though not voting for him may turn his Senate seat over to a real Democrat.

    Judging by the way Republican minority leader Hanna has gone out of his way to attack conservative Republicans in the current primary and favor Gordon Smith style moderates instead, I canot see how it is worth it to help Republicans regain control of the state legislature.

    The business wants Republican control of the legislature and is willing to sacrifice principle for political expediency. The true believers among us want conservative control and are not going to be satisfied by wishy washy Republican control.

    Huss is right and even though he won’t say it, Republican influence in this state has waned ever since the Gordon Smith philosophy was adopted by Republican leadership. Single-handedly, Smith’s philosophy has torn the heart out of the party and neutered it. His loss this Fall would hurt the U.S. Senate, true, but it could be the beginning of a rebirth of real Republicanism in this state.

  • Bob Clark

    On education, I would force more competition on the union owned public school system by promoting on-line private schools, private tutoring, and charter schools. These private alternatives can also be used to supplement public school system offerings.

    I would also do away with urban renewal districts which take real estate off property tax roles, reducing revenue for shools statewide.

  • John Fairplay

    The “strategy” recommended by the Washington DC consultant is a pretty close mirror image to that being used by national Democrats to pick up historically Republican Congressional seats. Democrats have figured out that Republicans won’t run as conservatives – so they are running conservative, pro-life, pro-gun Democrats in those Districts.

    To be honest, I would rather lose with good ideas then win without any – or with someone else’s.

  • Dylan Amo

    My suggestion to the readers of this post … keep your powder dry and wait.

    It’s the primary!

    Most of the organized, proactive agenda, us vs. them contrast pieces don’t materialize until the summer during the general election. I completely agree with Larry that Republicans will be more successful when we lay out a legislative agenda but from a practical perspective it’s a little too early. The contrasts will work better when ALL the legislative candidates are running against a Democrat and we can speak with more cohesion.

    Yes … each district is different. And I continue to hope that we elect the most conservative candidate possible in each district. BUT … I know people will hate me for saying this … but Oregon isn’t a conservative state. Now I don’t think it’s a liberal state either. But organizing under legislative principals that have strong cross over to independents and conservative democrats is the path that I would recommend the Salem leadership follow when creating the proactive agenda. And yes … many of the issues listed above meet that test.

  • Rick Hickey

    They will not deal with the illegal immigration issue because of the corrupt employers that are donating money, I and many others have tried and tried.

    We all know there are far more employers not breaking the law though and these folks will support employer sanction laws to prevent unfair competition and collectivley donate more money and time to our party as they have in other states.

    Some in Leadership here have decided to ignore these majority of employers and instead kiss the feet of the corrupt employers obviously.

    Erickson spent tens of thousands on TV ads only talking about illegal immigration because he has the money to do polling, which must show that this issue is big for most voters.

    The sad reality is as ICE increases employer raids, (Iowa this week where 76% of 968 employees are Social Security thieves), and as the fence is built and 1,000’s more border patrol Agents are hired, per the wishes of most Americans, employers will soon have to follow the law anyhow (respecting the law, a republican by-law I thought) and will not be engaged with the pandering republicans who ignored the rule of law for all this time.

    Some Republican leaders are doing exactly what the leaders of Mexico are doing, ignoring the people. And they all flee in return.

    That is the #1 reason for causing the exodus from our party.

    Economy, Jobs, Taxes, Housing, Crime, Health Care, Schools, Drugs and more are all impacted negatively by illegal immigration.

    You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
    The people of America want a solution and they know another Amnesty is not a solution. We do not need another Guest worker program ad most people know that.

    Attrition thru enforcement works and respects the rule of law and is fiscally efficient. I though that efficient government was another Republican by-law.

    Larry, thank you for your wisdom, and Rush and Hannity and Lars and Coulter and Taft and Morris and Gingrich and Edwin Meese and Dobbs and…

  • Stephan Andrew Brodhead for Oregon

    Education reform? How much education does one need in a service based economy? Wages have stagnated since the Nixon administration. Our manufacturing base is eroding. The argument that we need more education reform is worthless until we are able to stem the tide of offshoring etc. Our young Americans need something to believe in. They need jobs and careers waiting for them. Look around you. Where are the jobs that need more education? If the Dems get their way, we will be a country controlled by the baby boomer voting block in a stagnate Socialist high taxation environment. A lunch at a resturaunt will cost $30 bucks, just like Norway. Interest rates will be high, housing and especially apartment pricing will go through the roof. You say more education , more education ,all the while jobs are going to China at 25 cents and hour. A mere 17 percent of jobs in this country require a degree. In addition, the current Reactionary Republican (Cato institute) anti earth policies are alienating vast numbers of people etc. Current Oregon Republican policy on environmentalism is Neandertholic. We have a tremendous opportunity to be a world leader in clean air and water behavior. They are not making land anymore, and Oregon sits on some of the most beautiful soil and water rich land on the continent. This is a spectacular commodity in itself. The more population increases, the more people will be looking for a clean place to live, and they will be looking at Oregon. They will be millionaire Chinese business men buying unpolluted land for their children. If we level the playing field of Globalization and unfair currency evaluation, we have an opportunity to regain the innitiative. Instead we lust for cheap products and are partners in destroying the American economy. Talk about education reform for the 50th time when we resolve the current globalization gutting of our economy. on the other hand, with stagnate wages, low interest rates, and with the affordability of imports , we are lulled into a beter sense of well being. A modern day Roman empire (let them eat cake mentality). So eventhough globalization is destroying our manufacturing base, and my job pays pathetic wages, I still can afford that Chinese made product, so I am OK. The expression of “Free trader” is a corporate slogan for “dont worry be happy and sell out your next generation”. But then again, lets jump on the education band wagon, and then send our young over to China where there are jobs that require a degree. They would have to settle for 50 cents an hour though. They would have to work all day for what it costs for a happy meal here. Life is good when one only needs some chopstix and a bowl of rice every day. Give our youth a reason to excel, for burger joints and Chinese made product stocking jobs do nto pay the bills!

  • eddie

    We really need to flush the Oregon Republican leadership and start over here… because they cannot seize upon the countless opportunities provided by the crass, heavy-handed, witless bureaucrats who have run Oregon for decades.

    We’ve got massive spending, yet 40 year old, crappy roads. We’ve got really well funded public schools, yet our students turn in performances at the bottom of the pile. We’ve got the highest growth rate of illegal alien population in the west, along with some of the easiest benefits and tax laws to circumvent. (You have to pay a sales tax, but all it takes is claiming max deductions to avoid income tax if you’re working under a false name.) We’ve successfully removed all major industry from the state… we don’t ship much, don’t do much timber business, don’t really mine… and replaced it with… um… unique restaurants? Bike repair shops? Tennis shoe management? What?

    Yet, in the midst of all this, our candidates are constantly focussed on abortion? and on tougher crime laws? and on… um… is there anything else they ever deal with?

    We need local Republicans who don’t try and “blend” as Gordon Smith does… but come out and say:

    “Here! This is our plan for land use, that preserves Oregon, yet lets people DO things on their land.

    “Here! This is our plan for illegal aliens, to kindly, gently, and with deep understanding and sympathy, shove them back to their own countries until such time as they actually immigrate legally.

    “Here! This is how we want to enable industry, production, and manufacturing to occur in our state, to move us from a dwindling spiral of service on service industries, and create genuine wealth for the local economy.

    “And Here! This is how we can dump the deadwood infesting our school system, and make it leaner, more productive, and more focussed on the children it’s education, rather than the administrators and educators it protects.”

    If Republicans in Oregon could step up to the plate with those answers, the ones that really matter, then maybe, just maybe, we could turn around this dead-end state, and be something more than South Washington, again.

    • Craig Pope

      Well said eddie. I agree on every count. I am a candidate that wishes to YELL out the very message you are describing here, and force the leadership to adhere to this message.

      It is absolutely appalling that “new” candidates, like myself in the Oregon R primary are having to watch our backs and try to determine who our friends in the party are. I am all about the issues you all are describing here, and vehemently support a platform idea as described by Larry Huss, but I have a hard time seeing who I would be standing with if I win the seat. I am hopeful that the R leadership will take note of the discontent of its’ party during the summer and listen to some new blood that want a chance to make some corrections. Believe me, there are a few of us out here.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    There is a reason Republicans are called “The Stupid Party”

    Lets do the math:

    Democrats go wild eye crazy in 1992, Republicans offer a conservative solution, point out the idiocy of national health care and run away gun control. They take over the house for the first time in 40 years.

    Republicans nominate a moderate, Bob Dole. Republicans lose.

    Regan drops dead. The fact that the most popular president in most peoples lifetime was a die hard conservative eludes republican strategists.

    Republicans nominate another moderate, Bush 2, Bush wins in the closest election in history when his opponent is a tree.

    Bush gets tough on terror after 9/11 and achieves the highest ratings of any president.

    Bush fails to follow through on any conservative issues, signing every spending bill that comes before him. Bushes ratings tank.

    Democrats take over congress by running conservative Democrats.

    Democrats present a liberal face, electing Pelosi speaker of the house. Congress achieves the distinction of being the entity with an even lower rating than the president.

    Republicans nominate yet another moderate, McCain.

    Republicans face a close race when running against a Senator whose experience level can be measured in hours, who offers almost no solutions other than “hope”, who could not recognize that his minister was a Klansman for 20 years and who has the foreign policy acumen to think it would be a good idea to meet with lunatic foreign leaders.

    See a pattern here?

    • dean

      Rupert…there is definitely a pattern here. Your interpretation of reality needs a tune up. Obama’s pastor was a Klansman? A black Klansman? Democrats took over Congress by running “conservatives?” What…like Bernie Sanders? They took over Congress because of a failed war, and they are going to take over more of Congress and probably the presidency because the remaining Republicans have marched lockstep behind Bush in the war, and McCain is running for war cheerleader in chief. Plus it turned out that so-called conservatives were not very conservative (with money) after all, which is also true of Reagan. Its not that complicated.

      • Crawdude

        Not to be too picky but Bernie is a registered independant. I believe he actually calls himself a socialist when asked about his beliefs. He does however, caucus with the democrats.

        • dean

          True dude. I realized that right after I hit “submit.” Correction duly noted.

          • dean

            Another correction. Senator McCain apparently just announced a timetable for getting our troops out of Iraq. Surprisingly, it corresponds with the end of his first term, should he get one. So much for the 100 year war. What does he take us for? Don’t ask.