Bill faces convoy of special interests.Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard
SALEM - More than any other type of vehicle, the grinding burden of heavy trucks has left Oregon's bridges dangerously cracked - and the Legislature scrambling for a way to pay the repair bill.
And yet, legislators have done more to satisfy this industry than any other as it crafts a package of tax and fee increases to pay for the repair and replacement of Oregon's damaged spans - a cost for which the state Department of Transportation says heavy trucks are 56 percent responsible.
The lawmakers who have worked on this session's $2.5 billion bridge- and road-repair package say they've taken pains to satisfy the truck lobby with a tax break and vows to limit the growth of its fees because trucking companies are among the "stakeholders Stakeholders
All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government. " whose support is critical to get the bill through a divided Legislature and to the governor for his signature.
After spending more than a decade dealing with road and bridge issues, Sen. Bruce Starr, one of the key legislators to shape the bill, said he is convinced that getting all the key lobbying groups in support of a transportation-funding bill is crucial.
"You're better off to have unanimity UNANIMITY. The agreement of all the persons concerned in a thing in design and opinion.
2. Generally a simple majority (q.v.) of any number of persons is sufficient to do such acts as the whole number can do; for example, a majority of the legislature can pass among the stakeholders," said the Hillsboro Republican, who first got involved with transportation policy and politics as a legislative aide in the late 1980s. "We've seen what happens when you don't."
But others say they're baffled at the special treatment, including a $3 million tax break and promises to lower the overall trucking fee increases by that amount in case the tax break is removed from the bill.
"I would ask the question, why are they being pandered to? I don't understand why they're given the power they appear to hold over this package," said Randy Tucker, a lobbyist for the land-use watchdog group 1,000 Friends of Oregon.
An apparent backlash against legislative bill-writers' deference to the trucking industry has sidetracked the funding package, House Bill 2041. It passed the House nearly three weeks ago and its architects in the Senate planned to get it to the governor's desk within a week.
A bipartisan group of senators has stalled the bill's progress with their complaints about the bill's tax credit for the purchase of low-emission engines.
In large part, these dissenting lawmakers are concerned about how that tax credit would be financed: by "sequestering Particle Physics
In particle physics, sequestering is a procedure of isolating different types of physical processes or different particle species by separating them geometrically in additional dimensions of space. " future income taxes projected from the 4,750 construction jobs expected to result once the bill passes. In addition to the annual $3 million for the truck-engine tax credit, HB 2041 would provide $1 million a year for an advertising campaign to prod people toward alternative forms of transportation, and $1 million to help transit districts A transit district or transit authority is a special-purpose district organized as either a corporation chartered by statute, or a government agency, created for the purpose of providing public transportation within a specific region. buy buses.
"I think it's really a back-door way to get extra money for some folks," said Sen. Joan Dukes, an Astoria Democrat and one of the Senate's leading dissenters dissenters: see nonconformists. .
She and other legislators have proposed pulling from the bill the entire $5 million for transit buses A transit bus (also known as a commuter bus) in the United States is usually operated by an urban-suburban bus line, a governmental public transit agency, or a contractor.
A transit bus is normally used on public transit routes. , advertising and truck-engine tax credits.
Instead of getting the bill through the Senate by the end of June, as expected, backers are now struggling to find ways to either line up votes to keep the bill in its current form or to allow changes that won't cause support to unravel. The bill was referred to the Senate Revenue Committee last week after it became apparent it didn't have enough support to pass the Senate. The committee is scheduled to take the bill up and consider amendments on Monday.
The list of lobbyists and lawmakers who oppose changes to the bill that might lead to higher trucking taxes is long and varied.
Darrell Fuller, an auto dealer lobbyist and head of the Oregon Highway Users Alliance, said that's because the funding package was delicately assembled like a house of cards house of cards
n. pl. houses of cards
A flimsy structure, arrangement, or situation that is in danger of collapsing or failing: "The collapse of the rupiah . . . , sensitively balanced to satisfy the job-creating, tax-limiting, gravel-supplying and bridge-fixing demands of a wide array of interests - trucking being one of them.
"The notion you can pull one or two cards out of this house and leave the house standing is a risk that the alliance doesn't wish to take," he said during recent testimony.
Sen. Rick Metsger, a Welches Democrat who with Starr took the leading role in negotiating the transportation package, shares Fuller's concern. Doing away with the truck-engine tax credit would set off a chain-reaction of problems for one lobbying group - resulting in deteriorating de·te·ri·o·rate
v. de·te·ri·o·rat·ed, de·te·ri·o·rat·ing, de·te·ri·o·rates
To diminish or impair in quality, character, or value: support from legislators to the point that the package can no longer draw the three-fifths super-majority required for such revenue-raising legislation.
The trucking lobby has insisted that without the $3 million tax break, the Legislature will have to reduce its share of the fee increases by that amount. That would bring in the American Automobile Association American Automobile Association (AAA), federation of American automobile clubs, est. 1902. AAA provides a number of benefits to its members, including emergency road service; national and international travel assistance, e.g. of Oregon/Idaho, to make sure the Legislature honors a constitutional requirement that truckers and motorists each pay their "cost responsibility" for road work.
The overall cost-responsibility formula for transportation costs requires motorists to put in $2 for every $1 that trucks pay.
That means a $3 million drop in the proposed increase for the trucking industry's weight-mile fees would force down motorists' proposed fee increases by $6 million. And Metsger said that money would come out of the portion being dedicated to cities' and counties' road maintenance needs - triggering opposition from lobbyists who represent local governments.
In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , taking the tax break out means either going back on a deal with the truck lobby and inciting its opposition to the package, or offsetting that move by lowering the overall size of the package - and inciting the League of Oregon Cities There are two places named Oregon City in the United States:
Either way, "the risk level goes way up in terms of passage," he said.
Truckers' cost rising
Satisfying the trucking lobby's wishes has been among the trickier aspects of assembling the bill.
Initially, Gov. Ted Kulongoski Theodore R. "Ted" Kulongoski (born November 5 1940, in rural Missouri) is an American Democratic politician. Since 2003, he has served as the Governor of Oregon. He was re-elected in 2006. wanted to raise car and truck fees by $135 million a year. The trucking lobby balked balk
v. balked, balk·ing, balks
1. To stop short and refuse to go on: The horse balked at the jump.
2. . Such a package would require trucking companies to pay 12 percent higher weight-mile fees. The Oregon Trucking Associationsplural is preferred Metsger and Starr's $101 million version - which raised trucking fees by 9 percent.
After months of resisting the $135 million-per-year transportation package in the Legislature, the trucking industry agreed to go along with a compromise $114 annual tax increase - enticed by Sen. Starr's deal-closing suggestion that a tax credit of $500 for each new, environmentally friendly Environmentally friendly, also referred to as nature friendly, is a term used to refer to goods and services considered to inflict minimal harm on the environment. truck engine purchased in Oregon - which carried an overall cost of $3 million a year.
Metsger, Starr's Democratic counterpart on transportation issues in the Senate, agreed that it made good sense economically, environmentally and politically. And truckers accepted.
Bob Russell, the trucking associations' lobbyist, said the tax break was necessary to offset a tax increase beyond what his clients were initially willing to support because truckers are struggling so much during the economic recession.
"The trucking industry is in very dire straights," he said.
Keith Sherman, CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. of Sherman Brothers Heavy Trucking in Harrisburg, is one of many industry executives in Russell's associations who are urging him to keep a lid on rising trucking fees.
While the economic downturn is hurting everybody, Sherman said, its toll has been particularly steep for his industry. Fuel prices, which spiked in early spring, have been higher than he can ever remember during his 35 years in the business.
Insurance costs have risen dramatically for his company, which employs 350 people and includes both flatbeds that carry building materials Building materials used in the construction industry to create .
These categories of materials and products are used by and construction project managers to specify the materials and methods used for . and tankers that deliver glues, resins and other manufacturing chemicals throughout the western United States Noun 1. western United States - the region of the United States lying to the west of the Mississippi River
Santa Fe Trail - a trail that extends from Missouri to New Mexico; an important route for settlers moving west in the 19th century and Canada. One policy alone, Sherman said, went from $75,000 in 2000 to $618,000 in 2003.
And unlike other sectors of the economy, trucking continues to face upward pressure on wages because truck drivers remain in high demand despite Oregon's otherwise rising unemployment rates.
"We're in a struggling economy and we can't raise our rates. Those are some examples of what we're up against when it comes to cost increases," Sherman said.
Truckers support campaigns
Metsger acknowledges that part of the reason the transportation funding package ran into trouble was a perception among lawmakers that the truck lobby's "fingerprints Impressions or reproductions of the distinctive pattern of lines and grooves on the skin of human fingertips.
Fingerprints are reproduced by pressing a person's fingertips into ink and then onto a piece of paper. were all over it."
Metsger was the trucking lobby's top recipient of campaign cash in last year's legislative races in Oregon, with $10,075, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. an analysis by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Starr, who received $2,500, was the fourth biggest recipient. But it wasn't the biggest contribution for either legislator LEGISLATOR. One who makes laws.
2. In order to make good laws, it is necessary to understand those which are in force; the legislator ought therefore, to be thoroughly imbued with a knowledge of the laws of his country, their advantages and defects; to . And the $65,120 donated to Oregon candidates last year by trucking companies was far less than amounts contributed by the state's biggest contributors.
"I don't think you can say money is not a factor. But it's not the governing factor," said Janice Thompson, director of the Portland-based Money in Politics Research Action Campaign. "It seems to be a matter of many players involved and the need to keep all of them happy."
Lawmakers, who'd entered the session in January hoping that road fees increases to pay for badly needed and job-creating bridge and road work would get quick approval, are now scrambling to keep HB 2041 alive.
By Friday afternoon, lawmakers had come up with what they hope will be a compromise to satisfy the trucking lobby, the lawmakers who questioned the need for a truck-engine tax credit, and everyone else with an interest in the funding package.
Instead of relying on income taxes to pay for the tax credit, the bill will be reworked so it no longer says how the credit will be financed. And while truckers can still get credit for such purchases from 2004-07, they can't actually apply it against their tax bills until the next budget cycle begins, in mid-2005, Metsger said.
"We heard the complaints, and we now have answered them," he said. "And hopefully, we'll have a good outcome everyone can support."
The Senate Revenue Committee is expected to consider amendments to a bill that would increase fees to bring in $114 million annually to pay for bridge and road work.
$24 hike every two years for vehicle registration
$25 increase for title transfers
10 percent increase for truckers' weight-mile tax
Hybrid vehicle For other types of "Hybrid Transportation", see .
A hybrid vehicle (HV) is a vehicle that uses two or more distinct power sources to propel the vehicle such as:
$3.50 more for driver's license Noun 1. driver's license - a license authorizing the bearer to drive a motor vehicle
driver's licence, driving licence, driving license
license, permit, licence - a legal document giving official permission to do something
New fees for driving tests ($12) and written tests ($2)
$1.3 billion for state bridges
$300 million for local bridges on freight routes
$371 million for city and county road maintenance and preservation
$500 million for freight transportation, large projects of statewide significance and for modernization modernization
Transformation of a society from a rural and agrarian condition to a secular, urban, and industrial one. It is closely linked with industrialization. As societies modernize, the individual becomes increasingly important, gradually replacing the family, projects
- Oregon Legislature
A truck crosses a bridge over the Willamette River Willamette River
River, northwestern Oregon, U.S. It flows north for 300 mi (485 km) into the Columbia River near Portland. Oregon's most populous cities are in its valley. The Fremont Bridge, a steel arch with a main span of 1,225 ft (373 m), crosses the river at Portland. on Interstate in·ter·state
Involving, existing between, or connecting two or more states.
One of a system of highways extending between the major cities of the 48 contiguous United States.
Noun 1. 5 earlier this year.