Oregon Special Session: A bolder set of priorities

The Oregon Senate Republicans issued a statement of their priorities for the “special” session. It is a laudable, but unremarkable, list given the fact that the Senate Democrats outnumber them by a two-to-one margin. What that means in “political fact” is that none of their proposals will be given a hearing. Even those proposals with which the Democrats cannot find fault will either be consigned to Senate President Peter Courtney’s bottom drawer, or re-crafted and introduced by a Democrat. That’s the nature of politics in today’s Oregon legislature. The legislators are more concerned with “advantage” than solutions.

The problem with their proposals is that there is nothing bold in them — nothing that excites the passions of voters or addresses one of the critical problems of the state. For instance, there is no tax reform — nothing that addresses Oregon’s repressive capital gains tax or burdensome inheritance tax. There is nothing to change the status quo on Oregon’s failing K-12 education system. Nothing innovative to shift the resources of the state back to improving and expanding the traffic capacity of our roads and bridges — say by scaling back or eliminating completely Portland’s obsession with the continuing heavily subsidized and growing light rail system.

But most importantly, there is nothing to address the continuing problem of illegal aliens. Yes, I know that the Senate Republicans intend to deal with the problem of issuing driver’s licenses to illegals but even Gov. Kulongoski has come to the realization that that needs to be addressed — albeit more because Oregon is in danger of losing federal money than that it is simply wrong for the government to reward criminal behavior by issuing licenses. And while eliminating the ability of illegals to obtain driver’s licenses will assist in mitigating voter fraud and increase national security, it will do little in deterring illegals from continuing to enter.

It the Republicans want to retake control of Oregon’s legislature they need to do more than offer laudable but unremarkable programs. They need to forcefully identify the problems of the state and move boldly to secure a solution.

And the best place to begin is addressing the continuing and growing problem of illegal aliens in Oregon. There are several things that can be done. First, they can force the state to accurately account for the cost imposed by the growing presence of illegals. The people of Oregon are entitled to an accurate accounting of how much of their tax dollars are being diverted to support illegals, at least in the big three areas: the cost of education for illegal and the children of illegals, the welfare costs of illegals and the healthcare costs of illegals. That will set the stage and provide the justification for eliminating extension of those benefits to illegals in the 2009 regular session.

Second, they can begin addressing the real cause of the growing migration of illegals — employment by unscrupulous businesses that routinely prey on those who cannot protest for fear of being deported. The solution here is not difficult. The legislature can simply require that all employers verify the status of its employees. The easiest method is to utilize the Social Security Administration (SSA) to ensure that an employees Social Security Number and name match — the SSA provides this service free and can review up to 250,000 employees on an overnight basis.

The fine should be significant for violating this requirement the first time — say $10,000 per employee not verified. The second offense should be terminal — the business loses its license. In addition, employers should be barred from deducting the wages of any employee who is not verified for determining its income tax liability each year.

I’m usually not a fan of blaming someone other than the criminal for his/her action. But in this case, the raison d’être for the presence of illegals is their ability to gain employment in the United States. Until we shut off that opportunity, all of the other remedies will be Band-Aids for what amounts to arterial bleeding.

So, to our Republican friends in the House and Senate, be bold. Attack the big problems with workable solutions. Remember that this is a default Democrat state and unless you give voters a reason to vote Republican, they will default to the Democrats.