Oregon Senate Dems pass underhanded, hidden gas tax

Jeff Kruse

But wait, it gets worse! The way they did it means Oregonians won’t be able to put it on the ballot, this was something being pushed by Cylvia Hayes, it puts Oregon’s real transportation needs in jeopardy, and the “green jobs” the bill benefits will go to out-of-state corporations!

by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)

This week the subject is the passage in the Senate of Senate Bill 324, the Low Carbon Fuel Standards bill. It passed on a 17 to 13 vote, with one Democrat joining the Republicans in opposition. Before I get into the substance of the bill let me tell you about the dishonest way this was accomplished. There is clearly a fuel tax in the measure. The amount is yet to be determined, but estimates say it could be anywhere from a nickel to $1.40 a gallon.

They chose to call it a “redistribution” rather than a tax, which allows them to do a couple of other underhanded moves. First, all tax measures require a super majority vote, which they didn’t have. Secondly, because it wasn’t a tax bill, they were able to put an emergency clause on it. The reason emergency clauses (which make the bill effective upon passage) are not allowed on tax measures is simply to allow the public a chance to put it on the ballot. So basically the Senate just passed what could be a significant tax increase and at the same time denied Oregonians their right to appeal.

Another interesting question is why this had to be done in the first couple weeks of the Session as the current program (which has accomplished nothing) doesn’t actually sunset until January. It is well know that this was one of Governor Kitzhaber’s top priorities and his fiancée was deeply involved, but he is now gone.

Of course, we are told this is all about “saving the planet” and creating jobs. As to the environmental issue, I would point out the four days of activity of the volcano in Iceland put more carbon into the atmosphere than all of our reduction efforts for five years, and there are currently 200 active volcanos on the planet. I would also like to point out once again they went from calling it “global warming” to “climate change” simply because we have been in a cooling cycle for a decade. In reality man’s activities pale in comparison to what Mother Nature does with volcanos and fires. I could spend a lot of time debunking what is truly a political agenda, but maybe this is enough for now. I should mention, however, that most of the jobs this legislation could create will not actually be in Oregon.

As bad as all of this is, I haven’t gotten to the worst part yet. We have some real transportation needs in this state. We have a lot of bridges and roads that are in real need of repair. We also know that if we let them deteriorate past a certain point the cost of bringing them back up to standard becomes significantly more expensive. In the current funding formula 50% of the money goes to the state, 30% to counties and 20% to cities. I think this is a fair distribution.

Unfortunately we find ourselves in a situation where the base funding from both state and federal sources does not meet the need. What is being proposed is a gas tax increase that could potentially be six cents over six years. If the distribution on the money was equitable state wide this is probably something I could support. This would, after all, be directly benefiting Oregonians. But if you add this to the unknown level of taxation in SB 324 it becomes another matter as the impact on business and middle income Oregonians could be devastating. Because of the emergency clause on SB 324 the only alternative left to the public would be to refer the transportation package to the ballot, where it would be defeated. In the end we will have done nothing for our roads, but we will have benefitted out of state corporations.

At the beginning of this Session the Democrats, in their agenda press release, said they were going to focus on jobs. I assumed they were talking about jobs in Oregon, but I guess I was wrong.