Our neighbor to the South could be teaching Jay Inslee a lesson in governing, if only he’d listen – which at the time seems unlikely. If he was interested in the lesson, Inslee could be reading multiple editorials taking new Oregon Governor Kate Brown to task for failing to produce a much-needed transportation package, which was derailed earlier this year when the Democrat-controlled House and Senate insisted on jamming through a so-called “low-carbon fuel standard” or as the Orgeonian described it: “the 2015 Legislature’s worst bill, SB324, a politically costly measure that resurrected an environmentally useless program… In plain English, the low-carbon fuel standard is a colossal policy stinker.”
Because of that partisan move, legislative Republicans have pulled support from a bi-partisan transportation package by pointing out that motorists will already be paying more at the pump because of the fuels mandate.
The Oregonian described the costs of the measure “SB324 breathed new life into Oregon’s low-carbon fuel standard, which has the effect of a gas tax but won’t raise a penny for roads… The state expects the program to raise the price of fuel up by 19 cents per gallon.”
Jamming this bill through without a single Republican vote has cost Oregon’s governor dearly, as the Oregonian noted, “By signing the bill over the objections of Republicans, who warned frequently of the program’s cost-benefit delusions, Brown knowingly sacrificed support for a transportation package – a priority for both parties this session and for state businesses. Such a package likely would involve an increase in the gas tax, which effectively would be the second fuel tariff imposed during the same legislative session. Republicans have said they’ll have no part of that.”
And a Bend Bulletin editorial provides the linkage between Brown’s poor policy decision and a very similar situation in Washington State, writing “No one pretends that Oregon’s new clean fuel standard is going to slow or stop global climate change. Gov. Kate Brown says she supported the standard, but not because it would actually achieve anything on climate change.
“She says she is committed to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and California and Washington are doing things, so Oregon should hold up its end of the bargain.
“What do Oregonians get for this bargain? About the only guarantee is that the standard will make costs at the gas pump go up for customers.”
It’s that guarantee of higher cost that a fuel mandate brings which led our State Senate to pass a bi-partisan transportation package earlier this year containing language to discourage Inslee from bypassing the legislature and jamming through his own fuel mandate by executive order. This consumer protection provision in the bill requires money in the bill being spent on items Inslee prefers more than improving our roads – like transit and bike lanes – would be moved to roads funding if he goes the executive order route on the fuel mandate.
Yet, despite the bi-partisan support in the Senate, the bill has not been brought to the House floor for a vote and Inslee has attacked the consumer protection provision specifically. Instead, Inslee has doubled down on his extreme environmental priorities by refusing to rule out a fuel mandate executive order and insisting that a cap-and-tax proposal to raise gas prices even higher be included in the final budget.
There is still time for the House Democrats to come to their senses, and work with the Senate to pass a transportation package to improve our roads, one which also protects consumers from the policy disaster that is Inslee’s fuel mandate. Perhaps they should consider the words from the Bend Bulletin, which defines how the media there has realized just how poor a trade it was for Democrats to jam through a fuel standard instead of negotiating a transportation package: “Oregon’s clean fuels standard gets government more involved in picking winners and losers in the energy market when the benefits of the standard are questionable. It should be repealed or substantially altered to allow the transportation package to move forward.”