Sen. Cliff Bentz says he walked out for ‘survival of this community’

State Sen. Cliff Bentz, left, and Rep. Lynn Findley visit after the Ontario area Chamber of Commerce forum Monday at the Clarion Inn.

ONTARIO — Republican Senators in the Oregon Legislature made national news when they staged a walk-out in June to prevent the Senate from taking final action on House Bill 2020, a carbon cap and trade bill which the Democrats were set to pass with their supermajority. The bill had already been passed in the House.

The walkout lasted until just before the Legislature’s constitutional adjournment date of June 30.

Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, said he was joined in Boise, then Meridian by Senate Leader Herman E. Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, having made their way to Idaho via Grants Pass.

Reading from his prepared statement about, “Why We Walked,” Bentz shared his thoughts about why the action needed to happen, during the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce forum on Monday. Bentz was joined for the packed session by state Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale.

“The bill’s regulatory cart is way out in front of the technology and constitutional horse,” Bentz said.

While the bill would force drivers to pay for ever-rising fuel prices, it would pressure them to buy electric vehicles before there is development of electric trucks. In addition, the infrastructure to allow significant use of electric or hydrogen vehicle’s is a long way from being developed, Bentz said.

Motorists would see an increase in the cost of fuel by 22 cents a gallon by Jan.1, 2021, if the bill passed, Bentz said. That, in addition to increases in the costs of fuel already set. The state’s low carbon fuel standard, now 5 cents a gallon, will eventually reach 25 cents per gallon. Also, House bill 2027 is increasing the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon and the international ban on the use of bunker fuel for shipping overseas, which could eventually increase the cost of diesel fuel 20 to 30 percent.

Furthermore, the Democrats wrote House Bill 2020 so it could not be considered a tax, even though the consumer would have to pay it, Bentz said. This would have made the measure easier to pass, he said, adding that this was done by taking the word “tax” out of the bill and by “flout[ing] the prohibition against the use of an ‘emergency clause’ in a tax bill.”

Emergency clauses are used to take away referring legislation to voters, Bentz said.

In addition, he said, the way the bill was written, California would have been setting prices on the cost of Oregon’s cap and trade program.

“Oregon would not control the price,” he said.

In the end, three Democratic Senators voted against the bill with all the Republicans.

“Yes we walked and yes, HB 2020 is dead,” Bentz said.

However, Bentz and Findley said, it would be back. And Bentz commented that work would continue to change the provisions would hurt Eastern Oregon economies.

“I was about the survival of this community,” Bentz said, defending the action of the Senate Republicans who left the legislative session.

Bentz said he was told by an Oregon State University expert on carbon that Oregon’s contribution to carbon emissions around the world is imperceptible.

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Larry Meyer is a reporter for the Argus Observer.

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