Sen. Whitsett speaks out on resent legislative activity

Update on SB 76 – Dam Demolition
 First, we made a significant transcription error in our last newsletter. The letter stated that the 2 percent surcharge in PacifiCorp rates resulting from the demolition of the dams on the Klamath River could be about $34 per month and that the cost of replacement power could be about $65 per month. The correct numbers are up to $34 per year and up to $65 per year respectively resulting in up to a 10 percent increase in the average annual bill. The first number was derived by multiplying PacifiCorp’s 2007 $929 million Oregon revenue by the 2 percent surcharge and dividing the product by PacifiCorp’s 548,000 ratepayers. The second figure was derived by dividing the FERC estimated $35 million annual power replacement cost by PacifiCorp’s 548,000 Oregon ratepayers. That $35 million estimate is widely believed to be very conservative. In fact, if the power was replaced with renewable energy the estimate could be an order of magnitude low. We strive to provide you with accurate information and I regret my typographical error.

We want to thank all those who travelled to Salem to testify regarding
the demolition of the Klamath River Hydroelectric project, as well as
all those who provided written testimony and who emailed their thoughts
to the committee members. In a news conference held before the
committee hearing some proponents of Senate Bill 76
<http://www.leg.state.or.us/09reg/measpdf/sb0001.dir/sb0076.intro.pdf>
suggested
that there is virtually no opposition to the Governor’s plan to destroy
the dams. Your efforts made it abundantly clear that no consensus
exists, and that in fact many Oregonians are categorically opposed to
dam removal. Your testimony introduced many issues that the committee
members had not contemplated, and highlighted other important issues
that the Agreement in Principle fails to adequately address.
   
Please
know that we are grateful because without your efforts these issues
would never have been heard. The scheduled Thursday work session for SB
76 was postponed until February 10.
            SB 430 – Destination Resorts
This
week the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources introduced
Senate Bill 430
<http://www.leg.state.or.us/09reg/measpdf/sb0400.dir/sb0430.intro.pdf>
.
The bill states that a county may not approve an application for
siting a destination resort. The prohibition applies to an application
for siting a destination resort that was submitted or completed on or
after January 1, 2008 without regard to the status of the application
including whether or not the county previously purported to grant final
approval of the application. In short, the bill retroactively prohibits
approval of an Oregon destination resort until January 2, 2012. The
prohibition includes resorts that have already been approved and where
there have already been expenditures of significant funds and resources.
SB 430 will take affect immediately upon passage.
   
In
my opinion, this half page bill is a direct assault on the right of
Oregon counties to self determination.  It is yet another attack on
economic development in rural and small town Oregon.
Destination
resorts were designed in part to help our rural economies deal with the
draconian economic losses inflicted by the spotted owl and the adoption
of the Northwest Forest Plan. They were meant to provide a planned and
controlled means to develop certain farm and forest land to help
stimulate those rural economies.
     
 SB 430 stops that
process in its tracks. It prevents the counties from growing their
property tax base at a time when our economy is in free fall and the
counties are struggling to maintain services. It thwarts the creation
of thousands of jobs in the construction and building trades. Our rural
unemployment rates are soaring in an upward spiral well into double
digits with no end in sight. Oregon’s land use regulations and specious
restrictions were instrumental in creating Oregon’s current economic
and employment crises.
   
This bill will certainly add more
grief to that sad reality. Our office knows of at least five
destination resorts in our own district that will be thwarted by this
measure. In their zeal to lock up our resources and prohibit the
development of our natural resources, the protectionists are destroying
our state and national economies. The governor and other supporters of
SB 430 do not seem to understand, or to care.  SB 430 has not yet been
scheduled for a hearing.
        HB 2436 – Real Estate Transfer Tax
<http://www.leg.state.or.us/09reg/measpdf/hb2400.dir/hb2436.intro.pdf>
creates
a $15 "fee" for recording documents and deeds. It would create about
$17 million in revenue during the 2009-11 budget cycle to be spent on
various affordable housing programs.
   
 It is my
understanding that a fee is a charge made to pay for a specific related
service while a tax is a charge levied to collect revenue for unrelated
purposes. If the charge established by HB 2436 was actually a fee, it
would be levied for the purpose of paying for the service of recording
documents in the deed and mortgage record. However, the entire revenue
from this charge is to be deposited in accounts that are unrelated to
the service of recording documents and deeds. It actually creates yet
another unfunded mandate by prohibiting the county clerks from keeping
even a portion of the revenue to pay for the service of recording
documents and deeds. The fact of the matter is that HB 2436 creates a
real estate transfer tax to develop a revenue source to be used to
subsidize affordable housing.
     
While HB 2436 may address a
noble cause, the time to levy $17 million in NEW taxes is NOT when our
economy is in free fall, when our rates of unemployment are in an
uncontrolled upward spiral, and when our state faces a projected two
billion dollar shortfall to maintain current services during the next
budget cycle.
     
HB 2436 passed out of the House on Thursday and was heard in Ways and Means this morning. For the reasons stated, I voted no.
        Update on SB 5562 & SB 338 – Stimulus Package
Although
these bills are well intended to help create jobs, the methodology is
fatally flawed. Many of the repairs are actually badly needed such as
the remodeling of Owens Hall at OIT. Other projects are less pressing
such as moss removal from the roof of an ODOT building.
But
borrowing money for operations and maintenance is not good fiscal
policy. Amortizing the cost of maintenance over 20 to 30 years is
certainly not acceptable in the private sector and should not be
tolerated in the public sector either.
   
The legislature had
the opportunity to thoughtfully and prudently select infrastructure
projects to invest in, that would have provided long term benefits and
employment opportunities. For instance, the League of Oregon Cities
provided a list of much needed infrastructure projects in virtually
every town in all 30 Senate districts. The governor’s own Economic
Revitalization Team had prepared a similar list. Sadly, these bills
dedicate much of our remaining state bonding capacity to be used for
short term projects with short term employment prospects.This stimulus
package represents an opportunity lost.
 

 

Speak Your Mind

*