Denying Reality

Dennis Linthicum

Denying Reality

The 2017 Legislative session in Salem has ended, the dust has settled and the Senators and Representatives have resumed life in their local communities. Folks want to know what got done in Salem. Well, that’s the hard part because there is no single answer.

Every decision that occurs in our State’s capital is the result of weighing items on a scale. The data comes from different perspectives, interests and concerns with some ideas carrying more weight than others.

Oregon is like a gigantic picture puzzle. Our state is made up of unique individuals and communities, some rural, some urban, some entrepreneurial, some established. We each have our own character qualities – attributes, gifts, strengths and weaknesses – which the legislature must constantly assess and weigh.

The simplicity of this puzzle analogy is that when each individual piece finds its proper position, a much larger and greater picture is revealed. The goal of Oregon’s Constitutional government is to create an environment where everyone can find their place within the vast opportunities available.

The legislature’s goal should not be to force people into places where they don’t fit, like a seven-year-old hammering mismatched puzzle pieces together. Our job is to create an environment where each person can make the most of their own interests, or employ their capital and industry in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves, their families and their communities. The bigger puzzle picture grows from the individual’s contributions, not the other way around.

Frustratingly, the legislature seems to force pieces together with random hammer blows.

Nearly 3000 Bills came through the 2017 session.  During the last four days alone, 130 bills passed. With this volume there are, of course, good, bad, and ugly bills.

Make a Wish

SB 5505 authorized $101 million in Certificates of Participation for “buying out” part of the Elliott State Forest. Oregon will borrow this $101 million and will also pay $199 million in debt service over the life of the bonds. This staggering increase in public debt, for a forest we already own, will negatively impact Oregon’s General Fund for the next 25 years.

A $5.3 billion Transportation Package was engineered to address congestion, maintain existing infrastructure and increase alternate transportation options. The method for dispersing money is based on the number of registered vehicles and county road miles and will largely benefit cities and metro-areas.

Another cost imposed on consumers will be Oregon’s first-ever sales tax of 0.5 percent on retail sales of new vehicles and a new tax of $15 on adult bicycles.

The current 30-cent per gallon state fuel tax will also increase by 4 cents and continue to increase through 2024.  Vehicle registration fees will grow to $56, with additional amounts based on a vehicle’s gas mileage rating: $18 for 0-19 MPG; $23 for 20-39 MPG; $33 for those 40 MPG or greater; and $110 for electric vehicles.

Additionally, the transportation bill imposes an all-encompassing statewide employee payroll tax of 0.1 percent which will take effect next year and will be imposed on every worker, regardless of whether they own a vehicle, drive, walk or bike around town. Sadly, this will impact the lowest wage earners the hardest as their discretionary income will be reduced.

My Republican colleagues and myself were successful in securing nearly $40 million to Oregon Tech for renovation and development efforts in the Center for Excellence in Engineering and Technology at Cornett Hall. This money is allocated for higher education capital improvements. We also fought for and won a tax credit to incentivize companies to locate jobs in Klamath Falls and use KCC for job-prep and training needs.

We successfully stopped many legislative ideas that would grow government bureaucracy. The problem with government growth is that it always increases regulations while hampering creative corporate and individual problem-solving solutions.

Thankfully, the stifling Cap and Trade taxing scheme was stopped along with a ridiculous regulation aimed at dairy cow flatulence, onerous diesel engine standards and tax increases on small business owners. Republicans also thwarted a gross receipts sales tax which would most likely never fund PERS shortfalls or education reform efforts.

Unfortunately, the PERS problem remains and will grow exorbitantly. This past week PERS unfunded liability estimates exploded from $22 billion to $52 billion. The Democrat majority did not have the political courage to hammer out a forward-looking solution. Public schools, county government and social service budgets will be eroded.

This means without touching the egregious problems with the current pension and retirement funding scheme or limiting the damage from the current entitlements explosion, our children, along with their children, will suffer as the Governor's office and the Democratic majority continue to deny reality.

Remember, if we don't stand for rural Oregon Values and common-sense – No one will!

Best Regards,

Senator Dennis Linthicum signature

Dennis Linthicum
Oregon State Senate 28

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1728
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, S-305, Salem, Oregon 97301