By Knute Buehler
After three years in office, Gov. Kate Brown has provided Oregonians with a sense of how she defines leadership: Raising taxes on pretty much everything Oregonians purchase, use, need and enjoy.
At first, Brown was an accidental governor. But her obsession with new taxes is no accident at all, whether proposing her own tax hikes or falling dutifully in line behind various special interest plans.
First, Brown fell in line behind Measure 97, the government employee unions’ proposed $3 billion annual tax on corporations’ sales in Oregon. Then, in her first budget, she proposed $897 million in new taxes at a time of record state revenues. She even supported absurd new taxes on paddleboards, bikes, health insurance and beer. Now, environmental groups have told her to raise a new “carbon tax” when the legislature meets for 35 days in February. Brown’s proposed energy sales tax will cost hardworking Oregonians $1.4 billion every two years. And, it will cost family-wage jobs across the state and drive manufacturing jobs and businesses elsewhere.
As governor, I won’t define leadership by how high I can raise taxes. I’ll balance the budget and deliver results without raising taxes. I oppose this new energy tax and its companion $1.4 billion slush fund. Oregonians don’t need to pay higher taxes and Salem politicians don’t need another honey pot to offer hand-outs and subsidies to whatever well-connected special interest comes knocking.
My definition of leadership is to actually lead, not follow. For example, Brown has had almost four years as governor – and 30 years in Salem – to fix what’s wrong with the funding and quality of our public schools. Her failure to lead means at least 20,000 kids have dropped out of school over the past three years alone. Where Brown has failed to lead on pension reforms to fix school funding, I will fix it. And where she’s been afraid to challenge unions that defend the status quo in our schools, I will lead. Helping these 20,000 kids and improving education should be our top priority, not passing a new energy tax scheme.
As governor, I will build durable bipartisan solutions through independent leadership. I won’t acquiesce to demands by special interest groups to raise billions in new taxes bulldozed through on a party-line vote during 35 days this winter.
Brown’s embrace of this latest tax highlights all that’s wrong with her leadership. It’s a $1.4 billion tax and slush fund scheme. Oregon is already a leader in reducing carbon and restricting green-house gas emissions. We’re the sixth lowest in the nation for per-capita carbon dioxide emissions. That’s the result of steps Oregon leaders have already taken and that Oregonians are already paying for through gasoline and power costs. I supported 2016 legislation to replace coal energy in Oregon with cleaner sources by 2040 because it was the right thing to do and because of assurances it would be done with minimal rate increases by utilities. Now, with the ink barely dry on that law, Brown wants Oregonians to pay more – in higher taxes, higher energy costs and lost jobs.
Where will the money go? Straight into a $1.4 billion slush fund for politicians and their favored “green energy” friends and special interests to divvy up. Oregon is just beginning to clean up the mess from its notorious business-energy tax credit scandal, which sent millions of tax dollars to energy speculators and well-to-do investors that could have been better spent on Oregon students. A billion dollars lost. Chaos, corruption and incompetence at Oregon’s Department of Energy. Resignations and firings. Criminal investigations and at least one prison sentence.
And now the governor wants a do-over. No thanks.
Oregon needs a change. And I’m ready to provide it through independent leadership that can deliver bipartisan results and restore fiscal sanity to state government. Our first step should be stopping this misguided and cynical effort to pass a $1.4 billion energy tax on working Oregonians in February.
Knute Buehler is an Oregon State Representative from Bend and is a candidate for Governor.