No matter what your feelings about climate change, it should be clear to just about all Oregonians that the Legislature’s Democrats are determined to push through Senate Bill 1530, the proposed cap-and-trade bill, during the current 35-day legislative session.
While there have been changes to the proposal since it was defeated after a walkout by Republican lawmakers in June 2019, few of the Legislature’s minority party seem happy with the work that’s been done.
Among the changes in the current measure, fuel regulation would be implemented by zones, with Portland-area residents feeling the greatest impact beginning in 2022. A slew of other changes also have been proposed but not acted on yet.
Much of rural Oregon would be exempt from price increases associated with the bill until some unnamed time in the future. Communities like Bend, Salem and Eugene would be in a middle tier, with rules and accompanying fuel price increases expected in 2025. The aim is that 80% of what’s raised would be spent on transportation improvements where the money was collected, with 20% available statewide.
So far that and the other changes haven’t been enough to quiet criticism and end talk of a walkout among Republicans. It’s possible, however, that if Republicans were assured that the measure would be referred to voters for a final decision on its future, they might be persuaded to vote for it.
Democrats have said a referendum on the measure would complicate its implementation, though surely that could be handled if it were clear a referendum would keep Republicans at the table.
Either way, a referendum does one thing. It places the fate of a bill that will have an impact on everyone in Oregon in the hands of Oregon voters. That’s far from a bad idea, and both parties should give it serious thought.