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Oregon's Regulations Oppress Jobs

May 2011 Newsletter for Oregon State Senator Doug Whitsett, District 28

May 5, 2011 in Herald and News

I believe that a direct correlation exist between Oregonís oppressive regulatory environment and the sad fact that our state is a perennial national leader in unemployment, poverty, hunger, homelessness and despair.

         Oregon per capita personal annual income ranking is 32nd in the nation and is the lowest since 1929. It now stands $3,501 below the national average of $39,626.  The average Oregonian is taking home   nearly $300 per month or 9% less than the average American.

         Yet more troubling is the fact that the national growth in per capita income is increasing almost twice as fast as Oregonís per capita income. This downward spiraling income is in large part due to Oregonís shift away from a resource-based manufacturing economy where employees were able to make true family wage earnings to a more service-based economy with lower paying jobs.

         Nearly 750,000 Oregonians now depend on food stamps. That means that nearly one in five Oregonians are using food stamps to feed their families. The number of people depending on that federal subsidy has increased 13% since December 2009.

          Oregonís workforce unemployment has been higher than 10% during most of the Great Recession that began in 2007. In fact, Oregon has a long history of leading the national average up in unemployment rates as well as following the national average down. Unfortunately, Oregonís unemployment rates have been at, or very near the top of the national unemployment rates for more than a decade.

         Well more than half of Oregonís unemployed workers today have not been able to find work for more than six months. According to the Oregon Department of Employment, the U6 unemployment rate includes all eligible workers that do not have a job or that are employed less than full time for economic reasons. That U6 rate has exceeded 20% in Oregon for much of the recession period and currently exceeds 30% in many rural counties. Combined state and federal unemployment benefits have been extended to more than three years.  While these benefits are a lifeline for thousands of unemployed Oregonians, they are not sustainable. The only solution to unemployment is job creation.

         Oregon administrative rules are created by Oregon agencies in order to refine and enforce statutes created by the Legislature. The rules have virtually the same enforcement consequences as state laws. Those rules are constantly being created and altered by the state agencies

         Oregon currently has 180 state agencies. Those agencies enforce more than 11,000 agency rules. More than 9,500 of those rules are edited by the agencies each year.  I believe that our people and our business communities are being smothered by those agency rules that are constantly being created and altered.

         About eight out of ten new jobs are created by small businesses. Those business owners have little hope of staying current with that changing body of rules and regulations. Jobs are not being created, or are being lost, because small and mid-sized businesses are simply unable to cope with the maze of constantly changing administrative rules.

         This untenable situation is not likely to be resolved until our political leaders recognize that their ongoing actions are a major cause of the problem.

         We must be able to strike a balance between the passion for preserving pristine environmental conditions and the ability to sustain family wage jobs. The long held belief that businesses relocate to Oregon to enjoy the environmental benefits simply has not materialized. We have very few more jobs today than we did ten years ago in spite of rapid population growth.

         Moreover, our unique one in the nation centralized land use planning scheme must be altered to better allow owners to use their property for profitable endeavors. A vast amount of capital is sequestered in real estate that cannot be used for its highest economic benefit solely because of the Stateís land use regulations.

         We must find common ground between appropriate consumer protection and the ability to sustain profitable businesses. More than half of Oregonís 180 state agencies have some regulatory function. More than twenty agencies, boards and commissions exist for the sole purpose of regulating Oregon commerce. For instance, Oregonís Department of Consumer and Business Services has grown into a $400 million enterprise with more than 900 employees. The agency is funded almost entirely by fees and charges levied on the businesses that they regulate. The fees are burdensome to the business community. More important, the regulations have evolved into a crushing negative economic force.

         We must establish limits on tort liability so that businesses can function without oppressive liability insurance costs. Moreover, we must create a fair liability environment where businesses are able to make business decisions that are not dictated by the fear of catastrophic tort losses.

         Many good bills have been introduced in this Legislature that would address each of these important issues. To date virtually none has been enacted into law. We have spent a great deal of time debating a plethora of measures that address the specific concerns of well funded interest groups, many of which will result in job killing outcomes. We have spent virtually no time debating legislation dealing with job creation. With each passing legislative day it appears less likely that the leadership will allow bills that do address these important issues to be brought to the floor for a vote.

         In my opinion, our legislature is well on its way to completing another legislative session without addressing the most important needs of our Oregon constituents.

         Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.

Best Regards,



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