Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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How local legislators voted
Basin lawmakers say session wasn’t easyThe Klamath Basin’s state lawmakers often voted alike this past legislative session. And those votes were often no and didn’t do much to stop bills from passing.
Those bills included state economic stimulus packages, tax and fee increases, health care reform and legislation that allows PacifiCorp to charge customers to help pay for dam removal on the Klamath River.“It is particularly hard being a Republican in the minority, getting out-voted on every issue, day after day, for six long months,” said state Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, in an e-mail.
Some victoriesNot all was bad, though. Several bills Garrard and fellow Republicans state Rep. George Gilman and state Sen. Doug Whitsett worked on were passed, including legislation that helps veterans and reduces ethanol requirements in gasoline.
The three lawmakers also helped stop the state from halting development of destination resorts, which could have impacted a project in northern Klamath County.Despite those positive developments, the lawmakers called it a bad legislative session for voters.
“I think I voted no this session more than ever before,” said Gilman, R-Medford, in an e-mail.The Legislature ended its session June 29, one of the shorter sessions in recent history. The economic recession rocking the country was the main backdrop during the lawmakers’ time in Salem, and the number of tax and fee increases that passed were the main reasons the Basin’s lawmakers were disappointed.
Whitsett of Klamath Falls in an e-mail stated it was the most antibusiness session in memory. More than 150 new regulatory laws were implemented for businesses in the areas of the environment, consumer protection and labor, and more than $3 billion in increased taxes and fees were passed.“Obviously, a huge cost shift was established from general fund and lottery revenue to other fund revenue from licenses, fees, charges and registrations,” he said. “Other funds revenue now makes up more than 51 percent of the all-funds budget.”
DisappointmentsGarrard said higher taxes will lead to higher prices, and a new gross receipts tax will tax businesses before expenses are taken into account, which means businesses can lose money and still owe the state. He and Gilman said the session led to new growth in state government.
“The only growing business in this state seems to be government and I do not think that is good for Oregonians,” Garrard said.Whitsett said Measure 57, a voterapproved measure on minimum sentencing for drug offenses and other crimes, will be implemented and Warner Creek Correctional Facility in Lake County was saved from the chopping block.
Gilman succeeded in pushing through a bill that eliminates the requirement for gas stations to provide ethanol-blended gasoline at all octane ratings. Garrard said he was glad to see money preserved for Oregon Project Independence, a program that helps seniors remain in their homes rather than go to nursing homes, and for money to go toward senior transportation efforts.Gilman even found a positive aspect to the state’s increased taxes and fees on taxpayers.
“What we can say, however, is that we balanced the budget, which many states are unable to do,” he said.
Area lawmakers vote ‘no’ on dam removal billKlamath Basin’s three state lawmakers opposed a bill that allows PacifiCorp to charge customers to pay for removal four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.
Dam removal is a critical part of the broader Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which seeks to resolve water disputes in the Basin.State Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, said he was glad that amendments to the dam removal legislation will provide more protection to PacifiCorp ratepayers and taxpayers, but said he’d rather have waited until studies confirm removal is the best course of action.
“This was by far the most controversial issue in the session for me and for many others,” he said. “One Democrat, after voting in favor of the bill in committee, apologized to the people of the Klamath Basin for the vote.”
Page Updated: Monday August 17, 2009 01:56 AM Pacific
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