|Representative Phil Barnhart's E-Newsletter|
This is the seventh of my e-newsletters that I will be sending out during the 2005 session of the Oregon State Legislature. The purpose of this newsletter is to keep you informed about the progress that the Legislature is making, and about the work that I am doing to represent House District 11 and to support the values that we all hold dear: educating and nurturing our children, supporting our seniors, and protecting our communities.
The House Democrats, including me, tried to force a vote on a "no cuts" education budget. We hoped that we could pass an adequate K-12 budget if enough of the House Republicans proved more loyal to Oregon's children than to their political party. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership evaded an up-and-down vote by postponing discussion of the bill until August 31, which is more than two months after the House Speaker has promised to end the session. No one should be fooled. The House leadership is determined to cut K- 12 education, along with public safety and health care, so that they can avoid addressing the serious need to reduce abusive tax loopholes for wealthy out- of-state corporations.
Black Hills Generation Inc. has withdrawn its application to the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) to build the West Cascade Energy Facility near Coburg. I consider this a victory for Lane County.
There is no need for additional fossil fuel generation in the Willamette Valley. The state of Oregon is already amply prepared to site fossil fuel plants in the foreseeable future. Now is the time to prioritize renewable energy sources.
Many Lane County citizens complained about the siting process because they felt that the Council gave them inadequate opportunity for input. Their concerns convinced me to introduce HB 3135, along with Rep. Bill Garrard (R- Klamath Falls) and Senators Bill Morrisette (D - Springfield) and Doug Whitsett (R - Klamath Falls). This bill would provide more local control and community input in the energy facility siting process.
Oregon's State Economist predicted an additional $218 million in revenue over the next biennium. These funds should be used to prevent further cuts to K-12 education and other services. The House Republicans, however, have refused to budge from their proposal, which will result in severe cuts to most Oregon schools. Constituents have informed me, for example, that Marcola School District has been forced to turn off its heat in order to save scarce funds. The Republican K-12 budget proposal of $5.145 billion would ensure that Marcola's students continue to brave the cold with fewer teachers and larger class sizes.
The House passed HB 2332-A, which would gradually cut Oregon's capital gains tax rate in half from 2007 through 2011. This is the granddaddy of all tax loopholes. The House Democrats proposed a more modest alternative, which would have applied only to Oregon businesses, but it was rejected along party lines. Rather than forcing Oregon taxpayers to finance stock brokers in New York, Democrats want to create jobs here at home. The House leadership can't tell us how helping wealthy New Yorkers and Londoners helps Oregonians.
Governor Ted Kulongoski has signed HB 2328, which I introduced. This new law eliminates Lane County's regulations on the propane industry, and restores the State Fire Marshall as the sole authority responsible for regulating the installation of most propane tanks. Many local propane users have suffered because of Lane County's implementation of extra layers of regulations. This change will help consumers who use propane for their household energy needs, and promote the burning of this clean fuel rather than wood or oil. HB 2328 was strongly supported by the small propane dealers who found that these regulations were destroying their businesses.