By John Taft
Josephine County (JoCo), Oregon – Hundreds of county employees are watching the calendar days and months slip by until July 1st. This will be the first day Uncle Sam stops making O&C payments (money paid counties en lieu of property taxes) on the 68% of Josephine County the U.S. government holds in trust. The Feds hold this land – 1,115 square miles in trust. This is a legitimate debt the feds owe and now they wish to renege on monies due to the18 Western Oregon O&C Counties. The result of not paying this debt is that there will be a $12 million deficit. JoCo Public safety will be the first of the large government agencies to be clobbered, in the county. Other sectors of county government will soon feel the pinch in funding; this has already taken place in the Health Department and Animal Shelter. Without a transfusion, JoCo County government will soon become a wraith.
Oregon’s senators and congressmen are busy scurrying, thither and yon, in an attempt to find federal money to give to the counties to stave off possible social disorder. Others are ringing the alarm bells and proposing a three year property tax levy of $2.05 per-thousand of property value. The median price of a home is $250,000. This would add another $500 dollars to the tax bill. A figure, most homeowners would not care to dance with.
Greg Walden (R-OR) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
One of the causes of the county’s financial problems is the radical left environmental movement. They have locked up federally owned land though laws and court rulings, which amounts to, 2/3rds of the 1,639.67 square miles of land in Josephine County.
Josephine County is rich in timber and has a good supply of minerals and ores that could be mined. The county was founded as a gold mining settlement in 1851. These resources would promote economic activity and prosperity. The State of Oregon has put into place land-use-laws essentially stealing private property rights. It’s said that Oregon has the strictest land use laws in the nation. The radical environmental groups from Eugene, north along the Cascade Mountains, to the Colombia River, then over to the Pacific Ocean, a small land area, but containing the states population centers, controls the entire state with their land use regulations. Liberals in this area of the state rule as dictators for the rest of the State of Oregon.
The following proposal is the scam of the year. Even a Republican has taken the bait and is promoting the idea. Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) are working on a bill that would split the existing O&C lands, locking up half of the land forever, and the other half would be harvested for timber. The timber sale proceeds would be divided between the counties and the federal government. The State of Oregon will be the administrator of the lands. In Josephine County the land proposed to be locked up is 557.5 square miles. This land would be given over to the philosophy of radical environmentalism. If this were to happen, the environmentalists would soon be after the productive half of the O&C land open to timber harvesting. The radical environmentalists have a long track record of delaying timber sales and locking up timber harvests in court. These are people that can’t be trusted to do what is best for our county. However, the bill is still only a proposal and the Josephine Co. Republican Party, is opposed to the concept of sharing the timber lands.
WHAT ABOUT THE ELEPHANT?
The next problem is the elephant in the courthouse. Public officials and the news media have carefully tip-toed around this problem for years. This elephant is expensive, and has an insatiable appetite for more than peanuts. Why have a long line of county commissioners consistently ignored the elephant? The reason is simple, because the elephant in the courthouse is the influential County Public Employee Unions and commissions appear to be fearful of the unions. Public employee union’s members receive excellent salaries, lavish health care benefits, and a very generous PER’s plan. Their salaries and packages run up the cost of county government for taxpayers, far beyond a reasonable price, for the product delivered.
DECERTIFY THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS
So what can be done? The answer is for the public employees, who are members of the unions, to decertify their unions. The benefit for public employees is that they may get to keep their jobs as opposed to losing their job when funds run out. Without a levy approval by voters mass layoffs will occur. No money – no job.
TIE DECERTIFICATION AND PROPERTY TAXES TOGETHER
The possibility of the Feds kicking in $5.7 million for JoCo may or may not come to pass. Even if the money does arrive, it will still be millions of dollars short of present JoCo budget spending. The only place these funds can come from is a property tax. Educated voters know that the radical environmental movement and public employee unions are the curse of the free market place, freedom, and a Constitutional Republic. They are a negative force representing the left and socialism. They can only be eliminated by positive action. Tie these two groups together when voting on increased taxes and you will then come to a correct decision when marking your ballot. This is the way to remove the elephant in the courthouse (public employee unions). The era of big expensive government and powerful unions may very well be coming to an end in Josephine County, brought about by lack of money.