Oregon’s Senate leadership broke with colleagues Monday by admitting the upcoming legislative session is far too short for the aggressive plans of fellow Democrats.
The refreshing realism is a hopeful sign that Democrats might not be able to railroad a complex cap-and-invest carbon pollution plan advocated by other Democratic leaders, including Gov. Kate Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek. The plan would cap allowable emissions and require large polluters who exceed the cap to purchase allowances. Proceeds would pay for a variety of anti-pollution programs.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, was direct, as reporter Gary Warner wrote in Tuesday’s Bulletin: “Expectations are well beyond what is possible,” he said, reflecting on plans for the 35-day session to tackle legislation on the environment, health care, education, government transparency, equal rights and consumer safeguards.
Courtney and Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, are supporters of the cap-and-invest idea but argue time is too short. “I don’t want to copy some other state,” Courtney said, according to a report in the Oregonian. “People are working their tail off on it. But doggone it, let’s do this thing right.”
Kotek and House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, both Portland Democrats, disagree. “The voters sent us here to work hard,” said Kotek, while Williamson argued “progressive victories mean a better Oregon for everyone.”
Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the Oregon Legislature, with a lead of 35 to 25 in the House and 17 to 13 in the Senate. If all party members toe the line, they don’t need Republican votes unless they want to raise revenue. In the case of cap-and-invest, supporters have argued it wouldn’t raise revenue, despite the fact that it would bring in money the government would spend.
One-party dominance is a dangerous power, and an issue as complex as cap-and-invest invites trouble. Ideological purity can blind advocates to the myriad ways such a system can damage the state’s economy while accomplishing little for the environment. It demands time-consuming study and bipartisan engagement.
Whatever the eventual result, Oregonians gain from slowing the process down and owe thanks to Courtney and Burdick for introducing reality into the discussion.