The Oregon Legislature got it right this week when it approved a $5.3 billion transportation upgrade plan for the state.
The Senate, on a 22-7 vote, passed House Bill 2017 Thursday, a day after the House of Representatives approved the legislation.
The ambitious road upgrade for the state is a long overdue project that will help Oregon finally begin the long process to improve its
transportation system. Roads and bridges in dire need of repair will be upgraded.
Of course, the new plan isn’t free. Among other fees, taxpayers will be required to deal with a 4-cent gas tax hike and a $16 car registration fee boost. No one likes to pay more taxes, but in this case the need was so great that the new levies are necessary.
Lawmakers — chiefly Eastern Oregon lawmaker and Ontario Republican Cliff Bentz — put a lot of work into the plan and, instead of wasting time bickering about the proposal, decided to get something done.
In a real sense, the passage of the package is a historic event. For far too long, the lawmakers have wasted time on a plethora of side issues or other distractions while voters were forced to sit on the sidelines and scratch their heads.
This bill illustrates that when the need is critical, our elected leaders can use common sense and find ways to solve a problem instead of falling into a swamp of political dogma.
The state needs this transportation package. It is that simple. Taxpayers are going to have to shoulder the burden, but that is as it should be. We all use the roads and bridges of the state. Therefore, we all share responsibility to ensure they remain safe and secure.
And there are some elements of the bill that will directly impact Eastern Oregon. A good case in point is a $26 million infusion of funds for a transload facility in Malheur County. While Malheur County may seem like a long way away from Adams Avenue, the fact is a transload facility situated in the Ontario area will have a direct impact on agriculture in Baker and Union counties. It will mean a faster and cheaper method to ship agriculture products from the heartland of Eastern Oregon to the east coast and other markets across the U.S.
There is no doubt that lawmakers faced a difficult challenge when the transportation package first graced the halls of the Legislature, but those who supported this package deserve praise for finding a way to make it a reality.
Instead of bickering, our elected leaders found a way to find success at a time when Oregon desperately need adult leadership. Thankfully, this time taxpayers were witness to how a Legislature can and should function.