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Our dysfunctional state Senate

It squabbles over details while a job-creating road bill languishes

The Albany Democrat-Herald

The Oregon Senate has been described as dysfunctional. Its refusal so far to approve the road and bridge funding package sought by Gov. Ted Kulongoski is a good example.

The package would raise an estimated &

36;2.5 billion over 10 years for an accelerated program of repairing many of the bridges and highways on which Oregon's economy depends.

The state would get the money by issuing bonds. It would pay off the debt with money from increased fees for registering motor vehicles, and from increased truck fees and weight-mile taxes.

The House approved the package with strong support even though Republicans might have had some pangs because of the higher auto registration fees, which many of them had previously opposed. They knew, though, that some compromises had to be struck to get this highway program going.

— The Senate is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Some Democrats reportedly oppose a couple of points in the bill.

One is that truck companies would get tax credits for replacing their diesel engines with newer and cleaner ones. Because of this, the truckers have not opposed the higher weight-mile taxes, as they did in previous sessions.

Some Democrats say that under federal mandates, truck fleets have to get cleaner engines anyway, so why give them a tax credit? Well, because the package is a product of a compromises between competing interests ' that's why. And if the Senate reneges on one deal, the others may fall apart as well.

Further, replacing diesel engines in fleets of trucks is no small thing, especially at a time of economic stress. There's nothing wrong with state government taking account of the high cost of doing business and trying to help.

Others object to a part of the package that earmarks some tax revenue from jobs created by the measure to offset revenue lost to the proposed tax credit. Earmarking taxes is not a good idea, but this is not a point for which to jeopardize the whole package.

The road and bridge program was a central part of Kulongoski's plan to give the Oregon economy a boost.

On Monday a Senate committee finally approved the program, with amendments. Now the Senate should act quickly to approve it as well.