Wednesday, June 12 marked an emotional day in the Oregon State Capitol. Cap and trade, a program that has received equal amounts of scorn and praise from stakeholders and onlookers, advanced through the joint committee on ways and means on a strict party line vote, the final stop before full consideration by each chamber.

The session began with a clear signal from leadership that a version of cap and trade would be made law in 2019. What was unclear were the nuanced policy for various industry groups and the overall impact to Oregon counties, particularly surrounding the fuel tax revenue split between state and local governments currently set at 50 percent distribution to the state, 30 percent to counties, and 20 percent to cities. From the bill’s inception, this split was threatened. Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) Interim Executive Director, Mike Eliason pursued AOC’s position on this division and, working with other stakeholders, was at least able to help ensure 50 percent of the revenue flowing to the newly created “Transportation Decarbonization Sub-account” would be allocated to local governments.

A tug of war between industry and environmental interests continued through session on what gives and takes could be made to ease the burden on industry and rural Oregon, including a delay in implementation of the program for the transportation sector.

When negotiations ceased, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) replaced Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappose) on the committee to give the vote needed to advance the bill. During the ways and means committee hearing, protesters from the construction and timber industries circled the Capitol in their work vehicles and honked in protest during the work session. Republican legislators proposed two amendments that were ultimately rejected by a majority of the committee. Those were the –A102 amendment that provided industry with delays for implementation of the program, along with other tweaks, and the -A106 amendment that removed the emergency clause to allow for the program to be referred to voters.

Representative David Brock Smith (R- Port Orford) was called to speak on the industry amendments and called them a “compromise with industry to limit the sweeping impacts of the base bill.”

The final adopted amendment granted small delays and additional credits to industry. AOC was able to add a provision to the bill allowing new transportation revenue to be used for the replacement of vehicles with older model diesel engines. This may become particularly important as the legislature continues to pursue mandates phasing-out older diesel vehicles and equipment.

House Bill 2020 B will take a simple majority to pass and is expected to pass the House with ease but the final vote for the Senate is far from certain.

Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate