On Monday, the Oregon Senate passed House Bill 2800, the new Interstate 5 Bridge Replacement Proposal (otherwise known as the Columbia River Crossing), which now goes to Governor Kitzhaber for his signature. Despite its passage, the I-5 bridge plan is still seriously flawed.
Legislators have authorized $450 million in debt financing without telling Oregonians who will be taxed for the debt service. All they have said to date is that ODOT will have to pay between $27 and 35 million annually for interest payments on bonds. Since ODOT doesn’t have the money, there must be a future tax increase – just not voted on by the same people who voted for HB 2800 this session.
This “back-loaded” approach to paying for projects taxpayers can’t afford is cynical and dishonest. The I-5 Bridge Proposal passed because legislators didn’t have to admit they were raising taxes. If the plan had included a 4-cent-per-gallon tax increase or a doubling of the vehicle registration fee, the debate would have been completely different.
Legislators who voted for HB 2800 wanted the glory of passing a bill; but before they start pouring concrete, they should look us in the eye and tell us which tax they plan to raise. If they can’t give us an honest answer, they aren’t qualified to serve.
Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director at Cascade Policy Institute.