Both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate said Tuesday that they hope to pass a bill to fund statewide improvements to Oregon’s roadways and bridges. This funding would come from a combination of higher gas taxes and vehicle registration fees.
Democrats also plan to push a bill that limits how much carbon can be in fuel sold in Oregon. Legislators argue the two bills are unrelated.
However, Republican Mike McLane argued that because both bills will raise gasoline prices, voters will be unlikely to support either.
Democrats hold the majority in both the House and Senate, and are able to pass the carbon bill alone, however Republicans have significant leverage on the transportation bill. Any vote that raises taxes needs a “super majority” vote, which means Democrats are one vote shy of a three-fifths majority.
At least one Republican will need to vote “yes” on the transportation bill in order for it to pass.
Republican Senate Leader Ted Ferrioli said than if the Democrats pass the carbon bill, the GOP will not pass the transportation to raise the gas tax even more.
“Oregonians are going to be asked to pay real money,” said Ferrioli. “We could do just as much with a strongly worded letter and not bother Oregonians with a new tax.”
Gov. John Kitzhaber argued that the carbon bill likely will not raise gas prices, and condemned the Republican legislators for creating a stalemate.
“I think there’s a political game going on here. . . This is the epitome of a false choice,” said Kitzhaber.
The transportation package is cast as one of top priority for the session, especially for Democrats.
Legislators will convene on Monday, Feb. 5 to begin the session.