Opinion & Editorial

Looking back on my nine terms in the Oregon State Legislature

I moved out of my office in the State Capitol in Salem a few days ago. Just before Christmas Marty Wilde, the new state representative, moved into his office there.
During my nine terms much has changed in your Legislature. It is better organized, more efficient, and far more civil than when I first arrived in 2001.
Then, the major statewide issue was school funding. Today the major statewide issue is school funding. The job I went to Salem to do turned out to be much harder, despite the efforts of many, than I had thought. The new Joint Committee on Student Success has been working around the state to propose a path to restore the basic funding for our schools that we lost with the passage of the property tax reductions of Measure 5 in 1990. Your kids hope it is successful.
During my 12 years as Chair of the Revenue Committee, we have made some progress, but not enough. Our system of taxation is marginally fairer than it was in 2001. We have reformed and reduced the huge system of income tax credits. If tax credits work to improve Oregonians lives and our economy, the legislature should renew them. Otherwise, they will expire. This new system, adopted in 2009, has already weeded out the worst abuses, but there are some more to go. We have nearly restored the top rate from the 70s and 80s, 10 percent for high income taxpayers. The new (2010) top rate on high incomes is 9.9 percent. Big businesses have a slightly harder time now avoiding paying something toward the services they enjoy, but Oregon remains at the bottom of the states for overall taxes paid by big business, contributing to the starvation of our kids’ schools and other services basic to living well in Oregon.
In 2001, the issue of pollution and climate change was known, but was only a whisper. Now, it is a giant alarm impelling us toward fundamental changes in our energy production methods and use. Carbon pollution is a worldwide issue that will require most people around the world to take action to change their personal use of fossil fuels as well as reforming their own cities and nations. Oregon has been a leader in the effort, but must now step up its game. Not only must we prepare for the changes that are inevitable but also act to prevent them from getting worse. I have high hopes for Oregon. The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is working hard to fashion bills for the coming legislature to speed up the economic transformation to a non-carbon economy in Oregon. All of us will be involved personally and in our jobs and we will be better off, healthier, and more prosperous for getting it done fast! Doing it well will also provide a roadmap for other small states and nations to follow. The transition is imperative and must be done quickly. Failure will lead to catastrophe for our children. You should urge your legislator, commissioners, and city councilors to act.
Almost everyone I meet asks me what I plan to do in the future. I am too old to retire. I am used to working every day and plan to continue. Only the venues, not my aim, will change. Whatever work I do, it will be to the benefit of Oregon and our grandchildren.
I appreciate the huge outpouring of well-wishes and support you have given me. Many of you seem to think I have accomplished far more than I actually have, but I thank you for your awareness that I have worked to bring about a brighter future. As for all of us at transition times, where the adventure of life will lead next I can only see dimly through the next thicket of possibility. Stay tuned.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos