Subsidizing electric cars in Oregon: a shockingly bad idea

Batteries don’t charge up electric cars; government subsidies do. At least that’s what supporters of a bill now before the Oregon House seem to believe.

The bill, H.B. 2092, would establish an Incentive Fund to make rebates of up to $3000 to purchasers of alternative fuel vehicles, including those that are powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel and gasoline-electric vehicles. Rebates from the fund could total as much as $30 million per biennium and would be on top of the already absurd federal subsidy of up to $7500.

Just what we need, a $30 million government subsidy to purchasers of pricey cars, when Oregon is already one of the top states for EV market share and the state has many other more pressing concerns to address.

The House Energy and Environment Committee held a public heating on the bill on April 2 and has a work session on the bill scheduled for today, April 16.

Under the bill, state rebates would help affluent Oregonians buy vehicles such as the $43,000 BMW i3 and $135,000 i8, the $42,000 Mercedes B-Class, the $106,000 Tesla Model S P85D, and the $35,000 Chevy Volt.

The purchaser of a $135,000 BMW i8 would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate from the state under H.R. 2092

The purchaser of a $135,000 BMW i8 would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate from the state under H.R. 2092

To put things in perspective, $30 million is more than the TOTAL state income tax liability of all personal filers in 16 Oregon counties in 2013: Baker County ($13.1 million), Crook ($18.2 million), Curry ($19.6 million), Gilliam ($12.1 million), Grant ($5.9 million), Harney ($5.1 million), Jefferson ($15.5 million), Lake ($6.2 million), Malheur ($17.6 million), Morrow ($11.1 million), Sherman ($2.6 million), Tillamook ($23.6 million), Union ($24.7 million), Wallowa ($6.1 million), Wasco ($23.6 million) and Wheeler ($1.3 million).

If I lived in one of those counties I wouldn’t look kindly on all my personal state income tax payments going to this alternative fuel vehicle boondoggle.

Let’s be honest here, folks. There are a lot of other places $30 million could be invested more wisely in Oregon.

Seven Oregon counties have been losing population, Coos, Baker, Wallowa, Malheur, Grant, Wheeler, and Sherman.

If the Legislature can find another $30 million to spend, why not use the $30 million to help these struggling counties attract businesses?

Deserving young people around the state are dealing with the stresses and strains of trying to find the money to pay for post-secondary education.

Why not put the $30 million in Oregon Opportunity Grants, the state’s need based financial aid program.

The state invests in Employment Related Day Care in support of the Early Learning initiative, providing greater access to quality childcare for Oregon’s working families.

How about adding $30 million to the budget for that?

A potential decline in lottery revenues during the 2015-17 biennium is likely to present budget issues for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Oregon State Police Division of Fish and Wildlife. In addition, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is facing a significant budget shortfall.

The legislature could help out the Natural Resource Program area by adding $30 million to its budget.

The logical decision? Short-circuit this bill.

Availability of affordable, quality child care can clear a path out of poverty

This week the U.S. Census Bureau released comprehensive reports on nationwide and state poverty in 2013. There are a lot of almost mind-numbing numbers in the reports, but behind those numbers are millions of Americans struggling with poverty that infects their lives 24 hours a day and shapes their future.

The Census Bureau reports reveal that the poverty rate for Oregon improved somewhat from 17.2 percent in 2012 to 16.7 percent in 2013, but remains stubbornly high. One way to reduce it further is to ensure that quality, affordable child care is available to low-income families.

Holding tight, a child grins as she enjoys being pushed on a swing by Jan McIntosh at Good Apple Child Care Preschool in Hillsboro. What a treat.

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But for this child’s low-income parents, and many other low-income Washington County residents who want to work and want the best for their children, it can be tough to access affordable, quality child care.

But child care is essential to help low-income people climb out of poverty and children who don’t get a good start often enter kindergarten behind and stay behind throughout their schooling.

It’s in the community’s best interest to provide a strong foundation for all children to develop into well-educated adults ready to participate in the work force and keep our economy strong. It’s also in the community’s interest to facilitate work by adults because work builds self-esteem and creates self-sufficiency.

One Oregon program that helps make work possible is the Employment Related Day Care program run by the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS). It provides financial assistance to help eligible low-income working families pay for child care, enabling parents to stay employed and children to be well cared for in stable child care arrangements.

The program helps approximately 20,000 Oregon families every year pay for child care for about 35,000 children.

About half the children who attended Good Apple Child Care Preschool in Hillsboro this summer were being helped by the program.

The preschool’s owners, Jan and James McIntosh, operate out of their 1,200 square foot home with its half-acre backyard playground.

If a child wants to enjoy arts and crafts, hike through Jackson Bottom Wetlands, take a field trip to the Enchanted Forest, get introduced to reading and music, or dunk her feet in poster paint and make footprints on poster paper, Good Apple’s the place to be.

The 16 boisterous children there this summer ranged from 6 months to 9 years of age; that switches to children 6 months to 5 years of age when school starts. The children are overseen by between three to six staff members, depending on the activities under way.

The nonprofit Community Action organization, which works to eliminate conditions of poverty and create opportunities for people and communities to thrive, helped Good Apple succeed.

“We were hooked up early on with Jan Alvarez, a child care specialist at Community Action of Washington County, and she has been awesome,” said Jan McIntosh. “She’s encouraged us to take the steps to get our certification, get nationally accredited and then participate in Oregon’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS), which aims to raise the bar on quality child care and prepare children for kindergarten.”

Community Action also educates low-income working families about child care options, such as home-based programs and child care centers, and offers a broad range of face to face and online training classes in English and Spanish to child care operators and staff, such as first aid and CPR and child abuse and neglect training.

Karen Henkemeyer, who manages the child care program at Community Action, said some low-income families also find that providing child care can help lift them out of poverty while allowing them to stay close to their own children.

Child care providers throughout Washington County are striving to make a difference for low-income children and their parents. It’s critical that we support efforts to provide a full range of affordable, high quality child care if the county and all of its residents are to prosper.

For more information about child care-related programs in Washington County, call Community Action at 971-223-6100 or visit its website, caowash.org/ccrr.