by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)
At the beginning of this Session the majority party laid out their agenda, and we have now reached the point where they are finishing their objectives.
In February they passed the low carbon fuel standards as a payback to the environmental groups and re-wrote class action common law as a payback to the trial lawyers. We are now seeing the passage of legislation designed as a payback to the unions.
At the beginning of this Session the Speaker said we needed to pass [paid sick leave] state wide because Portland and Eugene had already passed it and it would put them at a “disadvantage” economically with the rest of the state. What the bill essentially does is require all businesses with 10 or more employees to grant paid sick leave to all employees, even those who are seasonal or part time. The economic analysis shows this could cost business over two billion dollars a year. For small businesses operating on a thin margin this could be a tipping point, forcing them to potentially reduce their number of employees. The real issue for me is the fact that it is not the government’s job to dictate to the private sector how to run their business. In an economy still in recession this will take any recovery we might have in the wrong direction.
Meanwhile the House passed HB 2960, which is designed to create a system where private sector businesses would be required to create and pay for a retirement plan for their employees. We should keep in mind the fact there are currently no restrictions being placed on any individual from creating their own retirement plan now. The argument is, “people are not currently saving enough for retirement, so the state needs to step in and correct this problem.” When one looks at the level of unfunded debt currently in the state retirement system (PERS), the question should be why we would want the state trying to manage the private sector system as well?
Keeping in mind it is still too early to be able to determine what the cost to private sector businesses will be, it is very easy to determine the motivation for going in this direction is. My prediction is that, over time, this program will be merged with PERS so the private sector program can be used to bail out the failed public program. In essence the private sector could end up paying for the retirement of public sector employees. Because the public sector plan is already funded by taxpayers this could be defined as double taxation.
Both of these measures are being defined as “being compassionate and looking out for the little guy”. Who is being ignored in this scenario is the most important “little guy”, the small business owners. Over 90% of Oregon businesses have 25 or fewer employees. These are the people most directly negatively impacted by these bills and they are also the backbone of our economy. What is frustrating is the fact the people who are pushing for these bills have never run a business and really have no idea what the impacts will be. By my very unofficial count, I estimate only 35 to 40 of the 90 members of the Legislative Assembly have ever run a business. The rest have spent their careers in the public sector in one form or another. From that perspective it might be understandable why they think government should be the solution to all problems, because they know no other perspective.
Over the last couple of weeks the Senate Republicans have been engaging in a series of procedural maneuvers of attempting to bring bills to the Senate floor for a vote. We have now attempted to bring 28 job creation bills to the floor. These are all bills that died in committee, but our process does allow for this to potentially happen. In reality this never works as such a vote is considered to be “procedural” so even if some Democrats might like the bill they are prohibited by their caucus from voting for it.
The main reason we are doing this is to try and point out the fact there were a lot of bills we could have considered that could have been positive for our businesses.
Of course, Republicans will be labeled as being for business, not the little guy. I would just point out that the majority of our businesses are the little guy, and they are the ones we are trying to help.