As President Obama continues to push Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, the jobs crisis has motivated governors and legislators to act on their own in recent weeks at the state level. In many cases, with regular legislative sessions adjourned, this has meant special sessions being called to focus either in part or in full on passing measures that proponents say will spur job creation even in the absence of Congressional action. With revenue crises still affecting states and conservatives holding up the much needed federal jobs bill in Congress, most of the proposals being made in these special sessions are revenue-neutral, but the effect that many of them will have on actual job creation for their states is questionable at best.
Several right-wing lawmakers utilized the weak economy to pursue damaging and radical proposals in legislative sessions this year. Some of the more egregious measures have included efforts to privatize functions of state government, including libraries, youth shelters, group homes, ambulance services, and transit networks. The pursuit of privatization is often rooted in misleading ideology that mythologizes private sector efficiency rather than demonstrable results of savings or quality. In fact, several privatization schemes have compromised service delivery, increased costs and fees for taxpayers, and severely reduced public accountability.
With state legislative sessions across the nation beginning to adjourn at a rapid rate, voters and elected officials alike are taking stock of the economic policies promoted and enacted by conservatives in 2011 – and, in most cases, they are not pleased with the results. Recent polls have shown widespread public disappointment with some of the key planks of a conservative economic agenda that promises more giveaways to corporations and the super-wealthy, and more pain for the rest of us.
This month, the Oregon Legislature unanimously approved a bill to provide increased transparency of state spending on economic development subsidies. The legislation, HB2825, would require the Department of Administrative Services to publish detailed information regarding the amount, purpose, and intent of tax incentives directed to corporate entities on the state's transparency website. State Rep. Phil Barnhart (D), who sponsored the bill along with State Rep. Kim Thatcher (R), commented that “spending on tax breaks should be treated the same as spending on programs,” and that “by putting this information online, as is currently the case with other areas of the budget, we move one step closer to that goal." The bill now awaits Gov. John Kitzhaber's signature.