Guest Post: Rep. Richardson (R-04) on Oregon Republican Jobs Bill

Posted on February 13, 2012 by

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Oregon Revenue Down; Important Jobs Bill Up

Last week’s newsletter discussed how Oregon’s State Budget is out-of-balance by $201 million and what the Legislature is doing to rebalance it. Also discussed was a widely-distributed survey that invites citizens to share suggestions for helping Oregon state government operate effectively, efficiently and economically. More than 8500 readers have taken the time to submit their ideas. Thank you. Your recommendations are being carefully reviewed and considered.
Today, the State’s Quarterly Revenue Forecast was released. It announced an additional $35 million reduction in State revenue during the remainder of the current biennium. As the following graph depicts, today’s forecast is the latest in a four-year, $4½ billion downward trend in state revenue.

Since the 2011 legislative session ended last June, the revenue forecasts have dropped by $340 million. So how will today’s reduction of $35 million in expected General Fund and Lottery revenue affect Oregon’s agencies and programs? As I have expressed before, the three Co-Chairs of the Ways & Means Committee (Oregon’s State Budget drafters) anticipated the likelihood of a reduction in the revenue forecast by maintaining a $460 million Ending Balance. The Ending Balance is a cushion that allows for reductions in revenue forecasts, thus avoiding disruptive cuts in agency and program budgets. Oregon’s remaining Ending Balance will absorb today’s $35 million downward adjustment in revenue and avoid cuts to agency and program budgets.

Consider the significance of the graph above. For more than a year, Oregon’s revenue stream has flowed along nearly $4½ billion below its high-water mark in 2008.

Oregon’s economy continues to be mired with little hope for sustained improvement unless and until the Legislature takes decisive bipartisan action to promote economic recovery.

My colleague and friend, State Representative Mike Schaufler (D-District 48 “Happy Valley”) has repeatedly encouraged Oregon House members from both parties to pass bills that will create jobs—legislation that will result in greater prosperity, self-reliance and success for unemployed Oregonians across the state. Consider the power and potential for transforming Oregon’s economy if a committed coalition of Oregon’s legislators were to unite in a common cause to create jobs, without consideration of party or politics. They would join forces, utilize resources and remove barriers to economic growth and prosperity. They would pass pro-job legislation.

One such bill currently being considered is House Bill 4101, called the Columbia River Water Storage and Use Bill, which was introduced by State Representative Mike McLane (R – Powell Butte) with bi-partisan support.

HB 4101 would invigorate Oregon’s north-eastern agricultural economy and create more than 10,000 new jobs in five years.

HB 4101 would leverage Oregon’s abundant water resources. Presently, Idaho utilizes 5% of Columbia River water. Washington utilizes 4% of the Columbia River’s water. Presently, Oregon uses less than 1/3 of 1%.

HB 4101 would increase Oregon’s use of Columbia River water by an additional 1/3 of 1%, for a total utilization by Oregon of only 2/3 of 1% of the Columbia River’s water. Doing so would result in no appreciable effect on the Columbia River’s salmon or shipping. Indeed, HB 4101 provides for the establishment of a process for the storage of winter flow water, which all agree is abundant.

HB 4101 would divert 450,000 acre feet of fresh water onto Oregon’s parched yet fertile land in Morrow and Umatilla counties according to the allocation set by a Task Force of interested parties. According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture the additional water could bring 100,000 Oregon acres into production. They estimate that 1 job is equivalent to 24 acre-feet of water. This would create 6,250 direct farm and food processing jobs. The most recent analysis of the economic footprint of Ag by OSU indicates a multiplier of approximately 1.65 which results in creating another 4,000 jobs.

The average annual wage for these agricultural sector jobs is estimated by the Oregon Department of Employment at $33,249. When these jobs are calculated over a five year period, the personal income growth for northeastern Oregonians would be $1.72 billion ($343.8 million annually.)

Since Oregon’s state revenue is heavily dependent on income taxes, diverting to Oregon agricultural land an additional 1/3 of 1% of Columbia River water would generate an increase in State Tax Revenue of $129 million over five years ($25.8 million annually). All of these benefits would come from utilizing a small part of excess river water.

In addition to creating 10,000 new jobs, $1.7 billion in family paychecks and $129 million in additional state revenue over five years, locally grown and processed fruits, nuts and vegetables would be a wise addition to Oregon’s agricultural economy. There is food-security benefit to passing HB 4101. The uncertainty of global politics and foreign oil supplies may eventually make crops grown on 100,000 additional acres of Oregon agricultural land vitally important to feed Oregon families who now depend on foreign-grown food for more than 50% of their produce.

In sum, the above four-year revenue forecast graph clearly reminds us that Oregon’s economic future depends on creating thousands of new Oregon jobs. HB 4101 is a rational approach to creating more than 10,000 new jobs and could do it by utilizing only 1/3 of 1% of Columbia River water, which is far less than our state’s allotted share of this plentiful resource.

Implementing this common sense strategy for creating new jobs would not only provide work and wages for thousands of Oregon families, it also would generate more than $25 million in addition tax revenues for ensuring our public safety, for funding our children’s education, and for caring for our most vulnerable senior and disabled citizens.

Unless HB 4101 is acted on immediately, it will soon be too late to pass it during this abbreviated one-month session. If we fail to act, another important opportunity to pass legislation that would create jobs and revitalize Oregon’s economy will be lost.

If you decide HB 4101 makes good sense for Oregon, now is the time to call and/or email your State Representative and State Senator (click here for contact list) and express your opinion.

Sincerely,
Dennis Richardson
State Representative


Oregon Transformation: In addition to his service in the Legislature, Dennis Richardson is the Co-Chair of Oregon Transformation, which brings to Oregon citizens information and opportunities to bring about lasting budget and regulatory reforms that will ensure a robust and growing private sector. To find out more, visit the website: www.oregontransformation.com.

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