WE HAVE MOVED: Please visit The Union News blog: here.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Oregon's agenda is Labor's agenda

With two months left in the 2007 Legislative Session it is time to take a look back at what has been accomplished so far. The first major thing we did was to create a "rainy day fund". We did this by stealing part of the kicker refund and we called the action historic. It seems we had forgotten the rainy day fund for education we had created in 2003 which currently has a value three times as great as the new one. As this new fund is actually a state savings account I argued we should create it the way most people and businesses do by not spending all of our income and putting some aside. With 2.5 billion more dollars to spend this would seem like a reasonable approach, but it was not to be.

Insurance Pool

Next we created a state health insurance pool for teachers. Every school in my Senate District told me this would actually cost them more money, but the bill moved through the Legislature and was signed by the Governor. The reason being this was the teachers union's number one priority and political payback was due. We asked for the ability to get an independent analysis of the actual cost or savings and were denied the opportunity.


Renewable Energy Bill

Next was the renewable energy bill. This had the potential to be a great piece of legislation, but ended up falling short. First, Oregon will be the only state in the nation not to count hydro power as renewable. Additionally any renewable energy facility sited before 1996 also would not count. Thirdly the bill drives too much towards wind power which is not dependable as the wind does not always blow. There are some exciting alternative energy sources out there such as wave energy and methane conversion, but the technology is several years away. This bill assumes policy can drive technology, which is a flawed concept and will end up costing all of us more on our electric bills.

Bottle Bill

Next was the update of the bottle bill. We will now be including water bottles and all carbonated drink bottles in what can be redeemed at the grocery store. This is considered a victory for recycling. In reality we are impacting 1% of the waste stream and 3% of the litter stream and putting more of a burden on the private sector. I have argued for the creation of a real recycling program so we could recover all glass, plastic and metal from the waste stream. If we truly want recycling we should take a comprehensive approach and not just nibble around the edges.

There are several other bills I could mention, but to save space I will stop here for now. All of the issues listed above have merit and are issues I would have liked to have been able to support. Unfortunately the agenda seems to be driven by politics, sound bites and head lines. All of these issues have been put on the fast track without much opportunity to fully explore the underlying policy implications. It is the job of the Legislature to make sound decisions on public policy. We have fallen short of that objective. I find it very frustrating to have to oppose issues I would like to support simply because the legislation is poorly written creating serious unintended consequences. The people of Oregon deserve more from the people they elect to serve them. I will continue to work hard to try and find common ground solutions on the issues yet to be resolved.

Sincerely,

Senator Jeff Kruse
(oregoncatalyst.com)