In the first of a series of guest editorials by Oregon lawmakers, state Representative Mike Schaufler offers some suggestions on how to get Oregon's economy back on track. Schaufler was chairman of the Business and Labor Committee of the House of Representatives in the last session of Legislature.
Oregon is still in the deepest recession since the Great Depression. Over the past two years or so, I’ve been asked by thousands of Oregonians what state government is going to do about it. The 2009-10 Oregon Legislature took three actions that I think will help. In 2009 bills were passed:
to upgrade Oregon’s transportation infrastructure
provide and make accessible health insurance to every child and tens of thousands of low-income adults
and invest in low-income housing.
What we did not do is spend, cut or tax Oregon out of this recession. The 2011-13 Legislature will not spend, cut or tax Oregon out of this recession either. Like always, Oregon will have to work its way out of recession.
How will we do that?
Oregon needs policies that recognize and take advantage of our abundant and sustainable natural resources. We must take far greater advantage of the army of working families who know how to responsibly and sustainably manage these resources as well.
Oregon needs to get back in the forest. Trees grow faster and better in Oregon than any where else in the world. Oregon forestry workers and Oregon woodland owners know how to manage our forests better than any one else in the world, (including the federal government). Oregon needs to invest in woody biomass for energy and be prepared to crank up our lumber mills when America’s economy improves.
Oregon needs to develop more water. With just one percent of the annual flow of the Columbia River, thousands of upper eastern Oregon acres could be irrigated. These irrigated acres would not only increase yield but would allow for much more diversity in what crops could be grown. Oregonians want to buy Oregon produce. Greater and more diverse production would greatly increase the need for food processing and create thousands of jobs in rural Oregon.
Oregon needs more flexible land use laws for industry. Getting large industrial projects to pick Oregon requires one hundred acre plots of shovel-ready land to build on. Oregon needs to streamline its permit process as well. All building permits should be granted or refused in twelve months. Anything longer than that isn’t process. It’s denial.
These are just some ideas. I do not take personal credit for any of them. I do very much support all of them completely and unequivocally. These are large-scale concepts. The positive impact would be felt through out the economy. The demand for goods and services provided by small business, as a result, would increase exponentially.
Communities benefiting from these proposals would see a marked increase in the demand for machinery, fuel, groceries, cars and pickups, flowers, fencing, flagpoles, furnaces, flat work and an exhaustive list of goods and services.
Last of all, Oregon needs you. I encourage every NFIB member reading these words to be in contact with your state legislators and governor. Oregon is a great place to live. We must have a sustainable economy and sustainable environment. Get involved.