Jeff Kruse

MARCH 10, 2017




In theory one of the most important items for this Legislative Session is the transportation package, which was something the legislature failed to accomplish two years ago.  Unfortunately, we may end up with the same roadblocks that prevented us from passing it in 2015.  As a reminder, this is what happened two years ago.  The Governor put together a workgroup to come up with a plan.  The workgroup consisted of eight legislators, two Republicans and two Democrats from both the House and Senate.  The Governor’s staff chaired the workgroup and all relevant agencies were involved.  This became known as the “gang of eight.”  I was one of the Senate republicans on the workgroup.  It was generally agreed at the beginning that the primary focus should be maintaining the condition of our current system, with the understanding that allowing roads and bridges to degrade past a certain point would make bringing them back up to standards much more expensive.  The point of contention was the low carbon fuel standards, which will take fuel tax dollars away from the highway system for “other purposes.”  Our plan would have put such a move on hold, to make sure the money went to infrastructure needs.  Simply put, our plan was killed at the eleventh hour by those wanting gas tax dollars to go to environmental groups.


For the 2017 Session the Senate President and Speaker of the House decided to create a joint committee to come up with a plan.  What was interesting was the fact that on the front end only one of the four Republicans who were part of the gang of eight are on the current committee, while three of the four Democrats are.  Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I have nothing negative to say about any of the members who are on the committee.  I do find it interesting, however that several of the members have no long term experience in transportation issues and I also find it interesting that all of the Senate members are from Portland or the upper Willamette valley.  Having said that, the issue that still has any proposal high centered is still the low carbon fuel standard.  It appears that the environmental groups will probably refer to the ballot any proposal that does not redirect gas tax dollars, which is currently a fund restricted specifically to infrastructure, to other environmental efforts.  I could talk about who these organizations make campaign contributions to, but I will let that go for now.  The real issue should be ensuring gas tax revenues go to our roads and our bridges rather than out of state corporations.


I have received a lot of emails referencing “clean diesel” and other environmental concerns relative to pollution caused by internal combustion engines.  There is a lot if misinformation available on the internet and also being distributed by organizations who make money on these issues.   Maybe it would be helpful to know some facts.  First, there are only two states in the United States with cleaner air sheds than Oregon, and they are Alaska and Hawaii.   Second, the amount of carbon reduction created by adding ethanol to fuel does not take into account the amount of carbon created in producing the corn or soybeans we are currently using.  I would also ask how much sense it makes to take up massive amounts of farm land to produce crops to be put into fuel (with a marginal return) when we could be using those crops to deal with the worldwide hunger problem.  Also, for those who really care about the environment, they are currently destroying the Amazon rain forest to grow sugar cane for ethanol.  I personally think the Amazon rain forest is the most important ecosystem on the planet and should be protected.


My real frustration is the fact that, especially in the area of the environment, real science has given way to political science.  Admittedly, our history is not stellar in this area.  I can remember when you could see the smoke from the pulp mill in Albany from 50 miles away and the Willamette River was not safe for swimming.  But that was decades ago and our protection of the environment, based on real science has come a long way and we should be able to take credit for the work we have done.  For those who say we can do better, you need to know that we are every time real science comes up with improvements.  My point here is our improvements should be driven by science, not a political agenda.  The low carbon standard is, unfortunately, a politically-driven agenda driven by those who would profit from it.  I know this statement will not sit well with some, but it is the reality of this particular agenda. As in most things in the world of politics, one should follow the money. 




Senator Jeff Kruse

email: I phone: 503-986-1701
address: 900 Court St NE, S-205, Salem, OR, 97301