The 2019 Regular Legislative Session finally came to a rumbling halt on the constitutional day of adjournment, Sunday, June 30. It reminded me of a run-away, “tax and spend” freight train finally hitting a concrete barrier. What a wreck!
The total state budget for the 2019-21 biennium rose by 9.9% over the 2017-19 budget and 24.4% over the 2015-17 budget. What does a careening budget look like?
The budget grew to $85,799,479,438 to provide services to a mere 4.1 million people for two years.
The supermajority’s revenue raising tactic was no penny and dime affair. They scheduled monstrous tax increases, like the Corporate Activities Tax (gross sales tax – HB 3427) and the Carbon Tax (HB 2020) but needed to lessen political resistance.
The chosen tactic was to raise money from vastly different groups of people, across different periods in the year. This type of money-grab greatly increased fees and citizen participation costs (i.e., Fishing Licenses, Drivers Licenses, Vehicle Registrations, Permits, etc.), while dissipating blowback and squelching any revolt. The total take from this seemingly penny-ante game was enormous and increased the Other Funds category by 19.6% or $6.2 billion.
As you are aware, I was among the eleven Republican Senators who left the state to deny the administrative quorum required for the legislative body to conduct business. The impact of this effort was a success and brought reasonable Democrat supermajority members back to the negotiating table. They willingly helped kill several bad pieces of legislation.
Earlier in the session we aimed at protecting constitutional issues, such as SB 978, an extensive gun-control bill that would have saddled all gun owners with rigid ownership requirements. These included, locked-while-not-in-use regulations, burdensome insurance requirements, criminal responsibility for actions of other parties and extraordinary financial obligations.
Another bill that tore at the constitutional rights of constituents and their children was HB 3063. It would have removed religious, philosophical and specific medical condition exemptions from Oregon’s vaccination requirements. This bill would have placed Oregon Health Authority (OHA) bureaucrats between the patient and their physician and I considered this a violation of an individual’s right to volitional consent for medicine and medical procedures.
During the close of the session we specifically focused on the crippling Cap and Trade Bill, HB 2020. The thrust of my opposition to HB 2020 was it cost too much while doing too little – it just wasn’t worth it.
The bill’s arbitrary regulations on greenhouse gas (GHG) producers in Oregon could never successfully impact world-wide GHGs. Oregon is too small to impact global pollution stemming from giants like, China and India. China produces 28 percent of the world’s carbon emissions while India has thirteen of the world’s twenty most-polluted cities.
In other words, stifling Oregon’s 2 million taxpayers with restrictive laws and punitively higher taxes will not impact the issues seen on the horizon. The only solution can, and should, come through the creative genius, technological advances and innovation that blossoms from our productive use of capital resources within our own free economy.
The 2019 Legislative session has ended but the political battle is not over. I remain convinced that these legislative concepts will return during the 2020 short session.
The central planners in state government have an insatiable appetite and are always looking for higher taxes, green energy subsidies, carbon taxes, free college tuition, single-payer government-run health care and the list goes on and on. At the same time, they burden taxpayers by out-lawing non-existent problems like fracking in Oregon, plastic straws, single-use plastic bags and making “legal” immigration simply unnecessary.
Yet, people are smart and the elite planners can never predict how individuals might change their habits due to taxes and regulations. What would the state do if people quit playing the Lottery, buying cigarettes, hunting or boating? Remember, part of the reason the state promotes and regulates these areas is for the revenue stream.
This misguided course of raising taxes, increasing regulations and removing spending restraints will result in the inevitable. It will destroy private sector jobs, productive assets, economic output and viability while disrupting the landscape in a vain search for Utopia.
Each of us realizes the inherent danger that stems from political power. It has the potential to corrupt all it touches including the public, politicians, businesses, schools, industries, associations, non-profits and even news outlets.
For people to be free, they must seek to live by the highest standards of personal virtue, justice and honesty. Lawrence W. Reed, President Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education, penned this encouragement for personal character. He writes:
“In America’s first century, we possessed it in abundance and even though there were no think tanks, very little economic education, and even less policy research, it kept our liberties substantially intact. People generally opposed the expansion of government power not because they read policy studies or earned degrees in economics, but because they placed a high priority on character. Using government to get something at somebody else’s expense, or mortgaging the future for near-term gain, seemed dishonest and cynical to them, if not downright sinful and immoral.”
In closing, I’ll hearken back to 1942 when the fans of the innovative radio series, “Adventures of Superman”, were thrilled to hear of Superman’s battle for “truth, justice and the American way.”
This motto is simple and straight-forward; we know it by heart; all political affiliations can recognize these values and our American experiment in self-government requires that we live by it.
If we don’t stand for rural Oregon values and common-sense – who will?
Oregon State Senate 28