Oregonians of all political parties need to make one thing clear before the short 2018 legislative session begins: We don’t trust state officials to spend wisely what could be as much as $700 million a year in new revenues.
That $700 million is what the state might collect each year if lawmakers approve a new “cap and invest” carbon tax in 2018. The tax would charge some, but perhaps not all, large businesses for their carbon output.
It could make exceptions for companies like Intel that, if faced with a new tax, could simply pick up and move somewhere else.
At least some of those working to write a bill would use the money thus raised on clean energy transportation projects, workforce training and the like.
Unfortunately, Oregon’s record with handling large pots of money does not make one feel confident about the whole thing. The Oregon Health Authority has a spending problem that seems to get worse every few months.
The state Department of Transportation, an independent audit found, has lost millions to such things as overdue projects and cost overruns.
Those are nothing compared to the Department of Energy, however, which so mismanaged its Business Energy Tax Credit program that the Legislature shut the whole thing down. The department itself shuttered its Small-Scale Energy Loan program when it discovered it was $20 million in the red. And, while criminal charges were filed in the wake of the BETC scandal, at least one state employee close to the program continues to work for the energy department. Two others are now at the transportation department.
It’s difficult to see why lawmakers would have confidence that agencies’ money handling practices have improved in the past few years. Yet without it, turning another huge chunk of cash over to any one of a number of state agencies makes no sense.