From the Albany Democrat Herald. Hasso Hering. 11.14.10
John Kitzhaber is getting to work on business development in his usual style, by setting up committees to work on policies and programs. It’s a start, but he may be missing one of the main points in Oregon’s business climate, the question of regulatory reform.
Taking a phrase from Vic Atiyeh, Oregon’s last Republican governor, Kitzhaber declared that Oregon is “open for business.” And he named five teams to work on different aspects of getting Oregon back to work. They are to work on economic development, manufacturing, energy efficiency, biomass and workforce development.
All that makes sense, even if it’s a little vague. But the
governor-elect might have wanted to name one more team: To work on the subject of “obstacles” to starting a business or getting something built.
This team would have wanted to hack its way through Oregon’s jungle of regulations and processes that slow down projects or prevent them from being done.
Such a team would quickly run into land use and transportation regulations. It would encounter absurd but costly procedures for getting around spots of land that are designated as wetlands even though they have no ecologically significant function.
This team would want to deal with the hostility some enterprises face from state agencies if they run into a snag and make a mistake – when working on a project that is discovered to involve a little asbestos, for instance. The team would want to review the monthly lists of fines published by the DEQ.
The obstacle hunters would also run into the Division of State Lands, where officials took years to act on relatively simple claims under Measures 37 and 49 and then denied them.
There’s also the subject of taxation. Maybe this is a subject for the governor himself, rather than one of his teams. Democrats in the last legislature raised taxes on many small businesses and then got voters to ratify them. It’s impossible to prove a connection, but the jobless rate has refused to come down since then and state revenue, a function of people’s income, kept falling.
Surely any plan to open Oregon for business has to deal with the dampening effects of one of the highest income and capital gains taxes in the country as well.
Finally, the governor might have named another committee. He could have named it the copycat panel. Its charge would have been to look around the country and find places where the economy is humming along, and then develop recommendations on how best to copy those conditions here.
In a story titled “Greetings from Recoveryland,” last week’s Newsweek reports among other things: “For sheer economic promise, no place beats Texas. … Indeed, Texas is becoming to (California) what Arizona, Nevada and Oregon were in the last decade: a refuge for workers and companies fed up with California’s high unemployment, cost of living and dysfunctional state government.”
Maybe there is something Oregon can learn from Austin or Dallas about how to grow business and jobs. (hh)