SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) – With the contentious Oregon legislative session now concluded, Gov. Kate Brown held a press conference Monday that focused largely on the Senate Republican walkout over the cap-and-trade bill.
Standing at a podium in her ceremonial office, the governor went through a list of accomplishments the Oregon legislature handled during their 160-day session. But she came back time and again to the walkout over HB 2020.
“Addressing economic issues and climate change are not mutually exclusive,” she said in prepared remarks. She intends to work on the cap-and-trade bill over the next few months and directed her staff to find ways to handle the partisan gridlock from Republicans if it rears up again — including using whatever executive powers at her disposal.
The proposal caps carbon emissions and requires businesses to buy or trade an ever-dwindling pool of pollution credits or “allowances.”
But the idea proved controversial among lawmakers and divided the Statehouse. Senate Republicans walked out for 9 days to delay a vote on the measure and only returned after receiving reassurances it was dead.
Brown says she wants lawmakers to go back to rural communities and find points of further compromise for future legislation.
“Doing nothing to reduce our carbon emissions is not an option,” she said. “I am not open to inaction.”
She said her first preference is to work collaboratively through the legislative process but also said elected legislators should “show up and do their jobs.”
“Senate Republican actions have subverted the democratic process,” she said.
The governor said she also expects the Senate to hold Sen. Brian Boquist accountable for remarks he made threatening Oregon State Police troopers ordered to round up the missing GOP lawmakers.
The governor is also expected to approve a measure that will require a public vote in 2020 to hike the tax on cigarettes another $2 — up to just over $3 per pack. E-cigarettes and cigars would also get a tax increase. The money raised would go to fund a shortfall in Medicaid.
On Sunday, the Oregon Legislature adjourned its 160-day legislative session after sending Gov. Kate Brown a new 2-year state budget and dozens of policy priorities.
A fuller picture of the two-year budget won’t be made available until July. But the Legislature approved millions of dollars to increase funding for higher education, the foster care system and public safety.
Lawmakers also rushed through major legislative priorities including an increased tobacco tax and a paid family and medical leave program.
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick called it a “productive session” that saw passage of “holy grail items” Democrats have long been waiting to get to the governor’s desk.
The Associated Press contributed to this report