Some Oregon lawmakers are determined to adopt a cap-and-invest law in 2017. They’ve spent years on the problem, they say, and it’s time to move forward. To that end, they’re prepared to push what amounts to a new tax on some businesses during the short, 35-day legislative session that begins in February.

Whoa!

Led by state Sen. Mike Dembrow, D-Portland, and state Rep. Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, work groups have, as the pair note, been working all summer and fall to complete work on a bill that would set a cap on how many pounds of greenhouse gases a business could emit before it had to purchase the right to emit more.

Not surprisingly, the bill would give the state a large pot of money to spend, and in tacit recognition of the disruption it would cause, the bill would allocate the first 15 percent of money raised to help people hurt by the measure, in part by retraining them for “clean energy” jobs.

Yet despite the work groups’ best efforts, business continues to be wary. The Oregon Farm Bureau’s state director of public policy told the Portland Tribune recently that the measure would drive up gas and energy prices for everyone, including employers, farmers and consumers, and noted that the state already is a leader in efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Oregon Business & Industry, with 1,700 members around the state, noted it continues to support efforts to reduce carbon emissions. But, it said, this bill makes such a big change that it should be handled, as all major measures are supposed to be, in the next full session of the Legislature, in 2019.

The group is right.

Oregonians, all of them, have a stake in cap-and-invest legislation, yet they’ve been effectively prevented from having any say about what is actually in the bill. Meetings were held this fall, at least a dozen of them. All were in Salem. The bill is not even available yet.

If cap and invest is as good as Dembrow, Helm and others say it is, they should get out and sell the idea across the state to the people who will pay for that good. That hasn’t been done and cannot be done by February 2018. Until it is, action on cap and invest must be delayed.

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