Oregon’s $343.5 million transportation funding legislation effort stalls

Updated Jul 3, 2015

14849226590_26be6a6ad8_kTransportation funding legislation that would have raised gas taxes and motor vehicle fees to generate roughly $200 million for road and bridge projects failed to even arrive on the Oregon general assembly floor for a vote last week. Total funding including other programs would have reached $343.5 million.

“Everyone worked hard. We made a lot of progress. The votes just aren’t there,” Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We’re out of time in this session, but the Senate won’t give up. The needs aren’t going away. Bridges still need to be fixed. Highways still need to be repaved. Culverts still need to be replaced. Buses need to run. We’re going to keep working. We’re going to keep looking for the right road to get us there.”

A group of eight bipartisan state legislators worked on the legislation that would also have had an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, reducing them even more so than an existing clean fuels law.

“Both transportation and greenhouse gas emissions reductions are important and complicated policy questions that deserve adequate and focused attention,” Governor Kate Brown said. “We worked hard to find a way to address them as a package, but no solution emerged that accomplished that to the satisfaction of all parties. They should be decoupled and considered separately, thus avoiding the ‘my way, or no highway’ situation in which we now find ourselves.”

House Republican Leader Mike McLane blamed the death of the legislation on a group of House Democrats. This group of 19 had previously submitted a letter to the governor indicating they wouldn’t support the legislation.

“Despite an initial bipartisan agreement to move forward with this proposed package that improved infrastructure while also significantly reducing carbon emissions, a group of 19 House Democrats refused to compromise and instead sided with the same environmental ideologues that fund their campaigns,” McLane said. “Unfortunately, with today’s decision to kill the transportation package, Democrats have left Oregonians with a hidden gas tax and no infrastructure improvements.”

OReGO, the state’s voluntary pay-as-you-drive highway usage tax, is set to start July 1. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is holding a demonstration kickoff event that day at the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade in Portland. ODOT officials and OReGO account managers from partner companies Sanef/IMS, Azuga and Verizon Telematics will be there to demonstrate the program.