FILE – In this Jan. 9, 2017, file photo, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown delivers her inaugural speech in the Capitol House chambers in Salem, Ore. President Donald Trump’s federal tax overhaul is a short-term boon for most states, but one is set to miss out entirely: Oregon.
Democrats created a plan to avoid losing hundreds of millions of dollars, but Republicans are using it to try to make political inroads in this deep blue state. Brown faces re-election, and Republicans said the divisive proposal is one of their main tools against her. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)
The nation again looks to Oregon as her House and Senate Republicans have once more left the Capitol. Much to the same tune of the 2019 legislative session, they relied on the only tool in their toolbox as the super minority (denying quorum), to stop what they view as the single most destructive piece of legislation to ever pass through the Capitol halls — cap-and-trade.
Proponents of the bill insisted it was the undeniable solution to what they describe as the impending climate crisis. The legislation aimed to cut Oregon’s carbon emissions to 45 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2035 and 80 percent below by 2050. A pay-to-play scheme would have been created under which the Governor’s office would be empowered to regulate the state’s emissions by selling carbon offset credits to the state’s largest emitters.
GOP lawmakers, on the other hand, held that the bill was nothing more than a camouflaged tax that would have caused irreparable damage to Oregon’s economy. Issues with public transparency, lack of process and strong-arm tactics from the totalitarian majority party caused elected Republicans to take the previously unprecedented step of denying Democrats the two-thirds quorum requirement needed to conduct legislative business — eventually leading to Senate President Courtney and House Speaker Kotek adjourning the session 3 days early.
Emotions in Salem are high, to say the least, and there is much debate on where to place the blame for the failed session.
Republican representatives and senators received tens of thousands of letters and emails of support from their constituents urging them to “stay strong and stay gone.” The group Timber Unity — which was born during the 2019 session with the sole aim of stopping similar legislation — has since grown to more than 58,000 members, and in February hosted the largest rally the Capitol has ever seen in opposition to cap and trade.
Also of note, 28 of Oregon’s 36 counties submitted proclamations opposing the sweeping legislation.
However, not everyone was excited and supportive of the Republican’s strong stance on the issue. In addition to Gov. Kate Brown being “outraged,” and House and Senate Democrats promoting a defamatory article from VOX labeling Oregon’s elected Republicans as “white supremacists,” government unions from across Oregon have also weighed in to express their disdain.
Oregon’s public-sector union leaders — apparently oblivious to irony — came out strongly against the walkout. From tweets and podcasts, to rallies and initiative petitions — even going so far as to organize a new union front group, No More Co$tly Walkouts, that spent tens of thousands of dollars on social media advertisements attacking House and Senate Republicans — government unions once again showcased that they prefer their resources go into hyper-partisan politics and away from their members.
However, the orchestrated attacks and righteous indignation appear a bit more hypocritical than we’re used to, even by liberal standards.
Unions traditionally have, and still do, resort to strikes when they feel they’ve come to an impasse in negotiations. Presently, the unions that are so outraged by the Republicans resorting to denying a quorum are the same ones who regularly celebrate strikes as a symbol of solidarity and standing up for the working class.
Apparently, when unions like the Oregon Education Association encourage teachers to walk out of the classroom as they did last May, thus denying our children a day of education and in some cases their only meals, it’s a great thing that should be celebrated. But when GOP legislators do the same thing to stand up for their constituents, to prevent them from losing thousands of jobs and huge tax increases — all for what experts have testified would be an imperceptible effect on the environment — it is a heinous act that should be vilified.
In many ways, Republicans’ decision to walk represented union members’ interests far better than SEIU and its ilk can even pretend to do.
Perhaps this is just another of SEIU 503’s stunts to try to appear it still has relevance, seeing as the union’s membership has plummeted to below 62 percent in the just 20 months after the Janus decision, which affirmed public employees’ constitutional rights to opt out of union fees.
The fact is that working people in Oregon and across the nation are paying more attention to the political process. Whether it be one party strong-arming the Legislature to ram through destructive legislation or government unions inserting themselves and their money where they don’t belong, their feigned outrage and faux victimhood doesn’t play well for their public persona.
Jason Dudash is the Oregon State Director for the Freedom Foundation, a free-market organization committed to helping free public sector employees from union tyranny.