Oregon Senate Dems pursuing ‘Dirty Dozen’ partisan proposals


Oregon Senate Republicans

Senate Democrats Pursuing ‘Dirty Dozen’ Partisan Proposals for 2016 Session
New Mandates Slam Families and Small Businesses with Higher Costs

Salem, Ore. – In the aftermath of a contentious legislative session defined by partisan politics, the majority party is determined to abuse the short February session by once again advancing a partisan, polarizing agenda backed by special interests. What was originally sold to Oregonians as a chance to adjust the budget and correct legislative mistakes and omissions has turned into a strategy for advancing ideological, controversial political issues that lack transparency and pay off wealthy campaign donors.

In the 2016 session the majority party will once again fail to address the real challenges facing our state, instead choosing to pursue more government intrusion into the lives of Oregonians:

2016 Session Democrat “Dirty Dozen” Priorities

Cap & Trade Mandate

Cap and Trade is another government mandate that will raise fuel and energy costs for small businesses and Oregon families, disproportionately hitting the poor, elderly, school districts and those on fixed incomes the hardest. This concept puts the state government in charge of the fuel and energy business. Instead of pursuing another expensive and ineffective environmental mandate, we need to find effective ways to address the challenge of climate change through technological innovation that improves our economy and creates jobs.

Minimum Wage Mandate

The minimum wage debate distracts us from what should be our economic focus: creating more family wage jobs for Oregonians and providing training to help workers get better jobs. As a result, many workers could lose their job or experience reduced hours and incomes to compensate for higher labor costs. Higher labor costs will also lead to higher prices on basic necessities like food and clothing, making life more difficult for the poor, elderly, and those on fixed incomes.

Inclusionary Zoning Mandate

Inclusionary zoning is another government mandate that restricts development and drives up housing costs. Requiring developers to subsidize below-market housing actually makes housing less affordable as developers are forced to raise market prices to offset lower profits. We need to modernize Oregon’s land use laws and reduce building restrictions to allow for more new apartments and houses so that supply exceeds demand and rent prices fall back to affordable levels.

Renewable Energy Mandate

Environmental activists and Oregon’s largest utilities have reached an agreement on an aggressive overhaul to the state’s electricity supply, expanding corporate market share while eliminating the use of coal and doubling renewable energy standards. This ambitious goal is not technically feasible today without undermining the reliability of the grid and will significantly increase costs for ratepayers. Similar to the controversial and partisan low carbon fuel mandate passed in 2015, this follows the mantra of “environmental priorities at any cost” and ignores the technologies that can most effectively address climate change. The higher electric bills from this mandate will especially hurt the poor, elderly, and Oregonians on fixed incomes.

Taking Away 2nd Amendment Rights

Democrats are developing a proposal that would remove a person’s right to buy firearms based on an anonymous report that they pose a “danger to self or others,” and a person would only be able to restore their rights by paying money to a health care provider or the court and convincing them to lift the order. The fragrantly unconstitutional violation of due process could endanger victims of domestic violence when, for example, an abuser files an anonymous report against his spouse to prevent her from buying a firearm to protect herself against him. Strengthening law enforcement and services to help Oregonians struggling with mental health should be the top priority, not additional attacks on gun owners.

Increasing Property Taxes

In an effort to increase taxes, Democrats are proposing to modify constitutional, voter-approved limitations on property taxes by changing the system from one based on assessed value to a system based on floating real market value. The changes would also allow local governments to increase the maximum constitutional caps through a voter-approved local option levy. With unaffordable housing plaguing Oregon communities, this will raise taxes on homeowners and further increase the cost of housing for Oregon families and fixed-income seniors.

Oregon Department of Energy Scandal

The complete absence of accountability within the Oregon Department of Energy and the ongoing series of financial scandals relating to the Business Energy Tax Credit and Small-Scale Energy Loan Program are costing Oregon taxpayers more than $100 million in funds diverted from Oregon schools and other essential services. Will the Democrat leadership ever stop their ‘wait and see’ approach and actually suspend failing state programs? A good start would be to suspend the Small-Scale Energy Loan Program and make an immediate additional investment in education.

PERS Costs Hurting Schools

Unwilling to acknowledge the funding dilemma posed by the $20 billion PERS liability, Democrats continue to use this as an excuse to raise taxes on families to fill the hole they created in education funding. Oregon should enact fair, constitutional PERS reforms to avoid education cuts and use a market rate for money match annuities. Democrats are refusing to take the bold action needed to stop looming class size increases, school day cuts, and teacher layoffs.

Public Employee Compensation Contracts

Critical health care services are in jeopardy as Governor Brown paid off public employee unions with a 5.18% pay raise on top of generous benefits, resulting in a $100+ million deficit in the DHS & OHA budgets in the current biennium. As DHS is under fire for misuse of funds and performance scandals, the majority party will likely spend reserves from the ending balance to compensate for a lack of accountability and generous pay raises for public employees at the expense of Oregon taxpayers and likely cuts to future public services.

Wage Disputes Create Another Payday for Trial Lawyers

Democrats are about to give another big payday to trial lawyers by hiding behind claims of protecting worker’s paychecks in wage disputes. Once again, Democrats want to create a dangerous and unfair precedent in the wage-and-hour arena by allowing employees to file lawsuits creating liens on an employer’s real or personal property based upon alleged, yet unproven, wage claims. As the power of the Bureau of Labor and Industries continues to grow, businesses are at risk of expensive new frivolous wage claims.

Union Lock Out Subsidy

As unions exert their political influence throughout Oregon, most recently seen at the Port of Portland shutdown, Democrats are once again siding with unions and are fighting to extend unemployment benefits for union workers choosing to protest while locked out in a labor dispute. Paying for these special union benefits will either require cutting benefits to other workers or increasing costs to small businesses. This would further empower Oregon’s unions at the expense of small rural communities and businesses resulting in the loss of jobs.

Cover Oregon/Oracle Lawsuit & Potential Federal Pay Back

After mismanaging and wasting taxpayer dollars on Cover Oregon’s health transition website that turned Oregon into a national laughingstock, there is still no conclusion to the saga as the majority party is unwilling to take accountability for their failure. The solution is not wasting taxpayer dollars on a frivolous, political lawsuit against Oracle. While Democrats throw more money at this problem, Oregon faces an invoice from the federal government to repay funds that were mismanaged as a result of the debacle that will go down as the state’s largest technological failure.

To download the entire “dirty dozen” list of proposals as a PDF, click here.