Thanks to large influxes of new residents from out-of-state, Oregon has been tilting leftward politically over the last few decades, much to the chagrin of many long-term residents. Further, Portland has become the laboratory for every new and allegedly forward-thinking urban planning and environmental measure that social scientists can dream up. The problem is that the state's new-found love of progressive policies often comes with a hefty price tag. And what's worse, state officials have been caught red-handed hiding the cost of one of the Democratic governor's signature environmental initiatives. According to The Oregonian:
State officials deliberately underestimated the cost of Gov. Ted Kulongoski's plan to lure green energy companies to Oregon with big taxpayer subsidies, resulting in a program that cost 40 times more than unsuspecting lawmakers were told, an investigation by The Oregonian shows.
Records also show that the program, a favorite of Kulongoski's known as the Business Energy Tax Credit, has given millions of dollars to failed companies while voters are being asked to raise income taxes because the state budget doesn't have enough to pay for schools and other programs.
The incentives are now under intense scrutiny at the Oregon Department of Energy, which is scrambling to curb their skyrocketing costs.
Here's the nitty-gritty from The Oregonian's investigation according to a release from the Institute for Energy Research:
–According to documents obtained under Oregon's public records law, agency officials estimated in a Nov. 16, 2006, spreadsheet that expanding the [green energy] tax credits would cost taxpayers an additional $13 million in 2007-09. But after a series of scratch-outs and scribbled notes, a new spreadsheet pared the cost to $1.8 million. And when energy officials handed their final estimate to the Legislature in February 2007, they pegged the added cost at just $1.2 million for the first two years and $4.1 million for 2009-11.
–The higher estimates were never shown to lawmakers. Current and former energy staffers acknowledged a clear attempt to minimize the cost of the subsidies.
Voters in Oregon — a state with a weak tax base, high unemployment and a hostile business climate — are no doubt pleased to learn that the state officials are putting politics above integrity and fiscal responsibility.