With an election battle likely
over tax increases passed by the Oregon Legislature on corporations and the wealthiest state residents, four of the Legislature's most powerful lawmakers came to City Club of Portland
today to discuss the session that wrapped up last month.
Unsurprisingly, the Democrats defended the tax increases and Republicans attacked them in a precursor of the debate to come, presuming opponents of the tax increases gather enough signatures to refer the hikes to the ballot.
House Speaker Dave Hunt
(D-Clackamas) spoke first, recapping a session that he termed as “innovative” and “inspiring” for extending healthcare coverage to 80,000 kids, passing major transportation measures, and covering the looming state deficit by increasing taxes on corporations and the rich. Sen. Margaret Carter
(D-Portland) took exception to the controversy generated by the tax increases. “I do not apologize,” Carter said, “because when you can put food on the table and provide children with health care you can protect the generation of tomorrow.”
Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli
, a native Portlander who now lives in John Day, sharply disagreed, saying Oregon's tax rate impedes “capital formation” and deters entrepreneurs.
“I believe Oregon has a taxing problem,” Ferrioli said.
Last up was Senate President Peter Courtney
(D-Salem) who eschewed commentary on the recent session. He said he “doesn't do budgets, and [he] doesn't do numbers.” Instead he said he was “going to try to put a new perspective on this and then sit down.”
He went on to draw a metaphor from an opening scene of Saving Private Ryan
. In the scene, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) and an unidentified soldier are pinned on the beach when the following dialogue, reported by Courtney, took place:
Soldier: What's the rallying point?
Miller: Anywhere but here.
Miller: Seawall! Why don't you move up to the seawall?
Soldier: Sir, I'm staying here.
Miller : Clear this beach. Make way for the others!
Soldier: This is all we've got between us and the almighty!
Miller: Every foot of this beach has been presighted! You stay here...you're a dead man!
The point, according to Courtney? Staggering unemployment that increased strains on social services — and the worst economy since the Great Depression —presented lawmakers with unprecedented challenges that would surely wreck Oregon if nothing was done. Yet Courtney intoned over and over, Oregon's legislators always continued “moving towards the seawall.”