BIZTIPS - July 31, 2005

Biz Tips: State of the State
Sunday, July 31, 2005
By Art Hill

For the most part, the news from Salem is good for business. Despite the focus in some press reports on the Legislature’s shortcomings, our senators and representatives are doing what we elected them to do. Now all that remains of the 73rd Legislative Assembly is some final committee work and a rush to move stalled bills to floor votes.

While there could be some last-minute setbacks and nobody got everything they wanted, the state’s budget has been pretty well put to rest. At $12.4 Billion, it’s not far from the Governor’s proposed budget of last December. The changes are largely in where the money will be spent – specific departments, agencies, programs. And the rising economy made a little more tax revenue available to restore some essential services.

Examples of business-related legislation from Associated Oregon Industries’ “watch list” include House Bill 2127, lowering unemployment taxes paid by employers by 12 percent. The Legislature passed it and the Governor signed it. Senate Bill 740 would have imposed a special recycling tax on electronic products, but it failed when it was judged to have adverse impacts on retailers and consumers. Following approval in the Senate, SB 323 looks like it will be signed into law, helping to clear up some questions about the difference between employees and independent contractors.

But after the final gavel comes down, one thing will continue to bother me about the business of government here in Oregon (and many other states). If you ran a $12.4 billion company, wouldn’t you plan income and expenses more than two years ahead? Wouldn’t your stockholders demand to know what your company is doing to insure that it will prosper five and even ten years from now? Of course they would. So why don’t we require the same long-range budgeting from our government? Easy to say but hard to do? No excuse. Let’s help our Governor and legislators take a longer view.

One final note. Oregon’s economy, (especially eastern Oregon’s economy) depends on good transportation. Under a massive Federal transportation bill heading for the President’s desk, Oregon will get roughly $2.2 billion for highway projects through the end of the decade. Let’s keep our legislators updated on where to spend that money for our most urgent transportation needs. Let’s keep the news from Salem good – for business.

Content © 2005 East Oregonian