This is my fifth year in the Legislature. Over the past three years, we have seen major changes in policy affecting Oregonians’ livelihoods and cost of living. This year, much of the legislation is aimed at those who employ others. Based on conversations with business owners, confidence in Oregon is at an all-time low.
Why do people make investments? Because they have confidence the odds of getting a return on an investment will be profitable. Why do people purchase a certain brand rather than another? Confidence based either on their own experience or from the recommendations of people they trust. Why do entrepreneurs take risks? Confidence their idea, market research, workable plan, salable product and the willingness to commit themselves to hard work in their investment is a calculated risk they are willing to take.
President Obama ran on a mantra of hope and change. He got elected but could not develop a confidence in the business world that would grow the economy past a meager couple of percentage points. After eight years of little growth and little wealth, we elected a president who ran on growing business, conservative values, retrieving a middle class and returning to greatness. He was elected and our economy has exploded. Why? In one word: confidence that regulations would be reduced, taxes would be decreased, and unemployment would be all but eliminated.
The U.S. economy is good, and people have confidence that, if they invest well, they will receive a good return on their investment. But the changes being introduced in the Oregon Legislature this year have Oregon’s business community concerned. From the agricultural community, real estate, manufacturers, construction and retail, all have concerns about these proposed policies. Rent control has already brought about the opposite effect they thought it would. Rents increased, people were evicted, and properties sold before the legislation could be signed.
We live in a state where the growing majority of job creators lack confidence that Oregon will provide a good future for their business. Many of these people have poured their life and their life’s investment into their Oregon business. This year in the Legislature, more than any other year, I see ideology trumping economic policy from folks who don’t understand small business. They don’t know what it takes to employ people, what it takes to compete in a worldwide market. They don’t understand that most in agriculture can’t raise their prices to accommodate increased costs of doing business. They don’t understand that it is extremely difficult and costly for small businesses to afford health insurance for themselves and their employees, and they don’t see how raising the cost of living affects the ability of employers to hire more workers.
Over the last three years, we have seen rises in minimum wage, paid sick leave, predictable scheduling, limits on hours worked in a week, pay equity and other bureaucratic mandates. This year we already have rent control that has passed and a bill where businesses that provide health care for employees will be taxed on those health care premiums. We have bills regarding cap and trade that will raise everyone’s energy costs, bills that place limits on home mortgage deductions, raise SAIF costs, and require paid family leave.
Unfortunately, these will seem small compared to the upcoming tax reform that will raise corporate taxes
$2 to $4 billion dollars per biennium. When passed on to the people of Oregon, which it will be, you would take $4 billion divided by 4.2 million people, which equals $950 per person or $3,810 in taxes every two years for a family of four. Is Oregon getting more expensive? You can watch the needle rise.
In a Legislature ruled by a supermajority of Democrats in both chambers as well as the governor’s office, Republican legislators have little effect. But the voice of the people is what makes a difference.
There’s not a better time to get engaged if you care about Oregon’s future and how it affects you and your family.
For information on bills, committees, legislators, phone numbers and email addresses, go to olis.leg.state.or.us.
Greg Barreto is a Republican representative for Oregon’s District 58. He resides in Cove.