Representative Bruce Hanna: Near the financial brink


By House Republican Leader Bruce Hanna
Guest Opinion- The Oregonian
March 12, 2010

Some politicians want Oregonians to believe that this year’s special session of the Legislature was a smashing success. But the bottom line is this: The Legislature failed to address Oregon’s chronic unemployment or improve our business environment, yet increased state spending by $30 million and added more state positions that taxpayers simply can’t afford. With federal stimulus dollars disappearing and new PERS costs about to explode in the next budget, the Legislature moved our state closer to the financial brink. Rather than putting state spending on a sustainable path, Democratic leaders spent every available dollar and increased state debt on the backs of future taxpayers. Even after Measures 66 and 67 passed, legislative leadership drained state reserves and then called for a federal bailout for the next budget. Our financial situation is made worse by the fact that Oregon’s private-sector economy continues to struggle.

Democratic leadership declared victory after the January employment report technically posted a gain of 1,100 jobs. But a closer look at the data reveals that we actually lost jobs in every private-sector industry during this time. In fact, we’ve lost more than 140,000 jobs over the past year. When unemployment and underemployment are calculated and combined, Oregon is one of the nation’s leaders in joblessness. That’s unacceptable.

It’s easy for politicians to spin employment numbers and plead for patience. It’s much harder for average Oregonians to accept this as they struggle to find employment. While House Republicans strongly supported extending unemployment benefits to jobless Oregonians, we understand that our constituents want permanent, family-wage jobs now. That can only be accomplished by supporting small businesses and promoting a healthy private-sector economy.

House Republicans came to the 2010 session with an aggressive agenda to promote private-sector job creation. Many of our solutions reflect those that even President Barack Obama has proposed at the federal level, including providing incentives to small businesses that create new jobs in Oregon. Only one of our solutions was allowed to reach the House floor for a debate and vote.

As a business owner, I recently received a letter from Idaho Gov. Butch Otter inviting me to bring my company and my jobs to his state. Although I have no intention of leaving Oregon, I’m deeply concerned when other states and cities are actively courting our businesses. Otter recently told The Associated Press that his phone has been “ringing off the hook” from Oregon businesses since Measures 66 and 67 passed.

Otter’s pitch for our businesses and jobs should serve as a wake-up call to Salem. Oregon needs new leaders who will pass new policies that promote economic growth and bring spending under control. The state government’s declining tax revenue is a direct result of Oregon’s poor economy and high unemployment. The Legislature can’t balance the budget without successful businesses and employed Oregonians. Under Oregon’s current leadership, we have fewer of both.