Session ends: The good and bad

Little was done to support small business and create lasting, private sector jobs
Oregon Senate Republicans,

Salem, OR — The 75th Legislative Session will be remembered for the harsh message it sent to Oregon families and employers in one of Oregon’s worst moments of economic crisis. After six months of increasing the regulatory burden and levying more than $1.5 billion in taxes on small and family businesses to fuel a continued growth in spending, the Legislature’s record on job creation is a dismal failure.
“Little has been done this session to create an environment in Oregon where businesses and families can grow and thrive,” said Senator Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day). “We can’t tax, borrow and spend our way to prosperity. Thousands of out-of-work Oregonians represent families who are wondering from where their next paycheck will come. They realize that private sector jobs should have been the number one priority for this Legislature. Instead, government spending and special interest benefits carried the day.”

$2 Billion in New Taxes and Fees

Democrats extracted more than $2 billion out of the pockets of Oregon families and employers this legislative session, causing a contracting economy to contract even further. Levied tax increases include:

· A brand new tax on insurance premiums for small businesses and individual purchasers, and an additional tax rate imposed on hospitals. Total raised: $396.5 million.

· A tax on Oregon businesses for the “privilege” of doing business in Oregon an increased overall tax rate on Oregon corporations. Total raised: $261 million.

· Two brand new, highest-in-the-nation tax brackets at 10.8% and 11%. More than 70% of the individuals paying this tax will be small and family owned businesses. Total raised: $472 million.

One report said that the new tax brackets and increased rates on businesses alone will cost the state 36,000 jobs.

“Other states are having a discussion about how to attract businesses and protect employers,” said Senator Jason Atkinson (R-Central Point). “But the ruling party repeatedly took steps to suffocate the life out of private sector jobs in Oregon. These priorities are completely backwards. It makes me wonder if they understand the daily struggle for survival that is occurring in living rooms around the state.”

Back to Basics Budget and other Republican Accomplishments

Senate and House Republicans produced a Back to Basics Budget plan that funds a full school year, makes targeted increases to human services and public safety, and leaves a $216 million surplus for targeted legislative add-backs and contingency reserves, all without raising taxes on Oregon families and businesses. Republicans for the first time broadened the budget discussion to include every penny that the state has in agency accounts, not just general tax revenue. In this budget cycle alone, the state will collect $7 billion more than it was approved to spend in 2007. As a result, Democrats used some of these little discussed other funds on a case-by-base basis, as in House Bill 2020 where an account for ATV education is raided to create an Invasive Species Control Account.

“When we use the same strategy that Oregon families and small businesses are using to budget in these tough times, we don’t have to talk about raising taxes that will destroy Oregon jobs and hamstring our ability to get out of this recession,” said Senator Chris Telfer (R-Bend).

Other Republican accomplishments from the session:

· HB 3505 – In response to the tragedy involving Heather Snively and her unborn son, Senate Republicans were able to secure passage of a bill that created the crime of aggravated murder and aggravated assault if a perpetrator harms a woman knowing that she is pregnant.

· SB 862 – Republicans empowered communities to provide workers with access to health care services by forging partnerships between employers, employees and community providers.

· Republicans expanded the use of biomass to be used as an alternative form of energy.

· SB 970 — Republicans removed barriers to economic development, creating a streamlined process for business citing.

· HB 2414 — Republicans protected the initiative process by defeating the now infamous “Yes Means No” measure.

· Republicans secured $13 million for Oregon Project Independence, fully funding a program that protects senior independence by giving them access to care in their homes rather than in institutions.

Burdensome Increases in Regulation

In addition to massive tax increases, Democrats spent much of the session regulating the private sector out of business. For example, Democrats passed Senate Bill 519, a public employee union priority bill, which effectively enacts a “gag order” against Oregon employers, preventing them from holding company meetings where they discuss political issues that may affect jobs. Democrats also over-ruled local land use planning officials and banned the creation of an eco-friendly destination resort in Jefferson County, one of the state’s most unemployed counties.

“Oregon has more then 250,000 residents who can’t find work today, and yet we are unnecessarily increasing regulation on Oregon employers, gagging their right to free speech, and obstructing their ability to conduct business in this state,” said Senator Larry George (R-Sherwood). “Special interests ran the agenda in Salem this year, and Oregonians are going to suffer the consequences.”

Tax, Borrow and Spend

Democrats did give token lip service to jobs this session, relying on a borrow-and-spend philosophy to create temporary employment. In the first month of session Democrats pushed a $175 million borrow-and-spend stimulus package through the Legislature that has failed to meet every job creation benchmark set for it.

“The number of unemployed continues to climb, but the only thing Governor Kulongoski and Legislative Democrats can do is borrow more money,” said Senator Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro). “Our kids will still be paying off this debt in twenty years. Oregonians are expecting real answers to the second highest unemployment rates in the nation. Democrats just don’t realize that more government spending is not the way to create the private sector jobs we need to escape this recession.”

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