USWA makes statement regarding: firefighters, steelworkers blast house committee passage of polluter bailout bill

Firefighters, Steelworkers, senior citizens and environmentalists blasted passage of an Oregon bill to impose a taxpayer financed bailout for corporations located in the Portland Harbor Superfund Site.

PORTLAND, Ore., May 23, 2001 — Firefighters, Steelworkers, senior citizens and environmentalists today blasted passage of a bill by the Oregon House Water and Environment Committee to impose a taxpayer financed bailout for corporations located in the Portland Harbor Superfund Site.

HB 2010 (Minnis, R-Wood Village) would forgive up to $10 million a year in property taxes owed by harbor landowners.

HB 2010 passed Monday on a 5-to-3 committee vote. In an attempt to shore up support, the bill was amended to protect funding for public schools at the expense of essential services such as public safety, transportation and senior services, according to USWA. The bill faces a floor vote in the House, but enjoys the backing of the House's leaders, and will be carried by House Speaker Mark Simmons (R—Elgin). Rep. Mark Hass (D—Beaverton) said after the Monday vote that Democrats might offer an alternative when the bailout bill reaches the House floor.

"They are robbing public safety to pay polluters. Who's going to be left to put out fires and keep predators off the street?" asked Tom Chamberlain, President of the Portland Firefighters.

"HB 2010 is a bill written in secret by Harbor polluters to shift up to $10 million a year in their toxic cleanup costs onto Multnomah County taxpayers," said David Foster, Director of Region 11 for the United Steelworkers of America (USWA). Foster added that changes in the bill to protect education funding "don't pass the smell test. The Legislature has mixed a little clean water with dirty water. But the water is still dirty and the bill still stinks. Taxpayers should not have to sacrifice safe streets and senior services to bail out polluters."

Foster vowed to take this bill directly to the people of Oregon in an effort to secure a veto by the Governor, "While the Legislature may be willing to let polluters off the hook for dumping toxics in the harbor, Oregonians know a dirty deal when they see it. We intend to stop property tax bailouts to harbor landowners like Oregon Steel." According to USWA, Oregon Steel alone would save nearly $500,000 a year in property taxes. Environmentalists blasted the bill, despite the amendments made in the committee. Rhett Lawrence, Environmental Advocate for Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG), said, "They can amend this bill until the cows come home, but taxpayers will still be left on the hook for these polluters' toxic messes. House Bill 2010 is counter to the public interest and is unacceptable."

The City of Portland and County of Multnomah oppose HB 2010, according to USWA.

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