Tough Oregon legislative session coming with increased Dem control

Jeff Kruse

Dems have introduced at least 40 tax increase bills already and Kitz administration has made changes to have taxpayers fund $150K “sex reassignment surgery” starting in January

by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)

Monday night the Senate Republican Caucus elected our leadership for the upcoming Session. Senator Ferrioli will once again be our leader. Additionally we elected four deputy caucus leaders. They are Senator Knopp, Senator Baertschiger, Senator Thomsen and myself. I think we have a good representation in this group of the state, both geographically and on subject matter. We will need it as the Democrats now have supermajority status in the Senate.

What that means is they can pass anything they want without any Republican support, including tax increases, which take 18 votes which is the definition of a super majority. The House is nearly as lopsided, as the Democrats have a 35 to 25 majority. In this case it means they can pass anything they want without Republican support except tax increases, for which they would need one Republican vote.

All tax Measures have to start in the House, and interestingly, so far, there have been at least 40 tax increase bills introduced. I would suggest there will still be more to come.

As troubling as most of these bills are, probably the most troubling is a bill to eliminate the two thirds vote requirement on tax measures. That is a safeguard against the Legislature getting too greedy I don’t think we can afford to lose.

I received a copy of the Governor’s proposed budget yesterday and clearly have not had time yet to really dig into it. However, just the title is troubling when he added “Governor’s Opportunity and Investment Budget”. Translated this means, give me more money so I can do all these other things. I do know the Governor’s budget is an 11% increase in state general fund spending, and my basic question would be how many Oregonians have seen an 11% increase in their income. I believe the answer would be very few.

We have been arguing for years to move to the concept of zero based budgeting, which would mean we would start every cycle brand new and have the agencies justify all of their programs and expenditures. Instead we continue to do what is called “current service level budgeting”, which assumes everything we are spending money on is good and we should simply increase it. Unfortunately this flawed process will continue.

As with most Legislative Sessions I am assuming the majority of our work will be bipartisan and not controversial. In fact most of the legislation I have been working on over the last year I have been doing in not only a bipartisan, but also a bicameral way. Of course, what will draw the most media attention; will be the areas of disagreement.

Unfortunately many of the actions being taken are being done by the executive branch and would take legislative action to stop, which probably will not happen. I will give you just one example at this time. There is a thing in Oregon called the “prioritized list”, which are the services in the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) which are paid for with state and federal tax dollars. The list of what is included and excluded changes on a regular basis, and that will be happening in January. My problem with the new inclusions this time deals with three specific items. They are “puberty suppression”, “cross hormone therapy”, and “sex reassignment surgery”. My question is why we would be choosing to use taxpayer dollars for these things that are clearly elective and dubious at best. I am not sure I will be allowed to ask this question in a way that might actually make any difference.

This is probably going to be a very trying Session, and I will welcome any input on issues as they come up. I will also try to keep everyone informed as we move forward into the Session.