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Moderation on minimum wage

The Oregon Legislature is considering several bills that would increase the state’s minimum wage.

Which is interesting, considering the small number of Oregonians who earn the minimum wage — about 5.7 percent of workers in the state, and 8.3 percent in Baker City — already have gotten a raise this year, starting Jan. 1.


Lifesaving data for fire crews

If your property is burning, you want the firefighters to focus on dousing the flames.

You don’t want them getting a water-laden fire truck stuck because it drives over the septic tank and cracks it.


Laws don’t deter the lawless

The Oregon Legislature seems all but certain to pass a bill that we believe has little if any chance to achieve its goal.

That goal — to prevent convicted felons who aren’t legally entitled to own a gun from buying one — is a worthwhile one, to be sure.


School spending and strange political bedfellows

Don’t feel badly if the recent debate in the Oregon Legislature over how much money the state should spend on public schools has left you a trifle woozy.

In a reversal of typical partisan roles, Republican legislators have pilloried the majority Democrats for shortchanging the state’s schools by hundreds of millions of dollars.


PILT is key for the county

It’s a yearly pest as predictable as the dandelion and the mosquito, but with much more serious potential consequences — Baker County officials wondering whether this is the year Congress pulls the budget rug from under their feet.

This year, as in the past, lawmakers eased the county’s fears by continuing a federal program that’s been a vital source of money for the road department for the past 15 years.


Use TMP delay wisely

We’re not sure what Forest Service officials hoped to accomplish with their recent announcement that the agency is delaying work on its controversial plan to ban motor vehicles from some roads on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

But if, as seems likely, the goal was to ease residents’ concerns, even temporarily, about the pending Travel Management Plan (TMP), then the announcement failed.

We’ve received several emails and letters to the editor from locals who not only weren’t mollified by the press release from Regional Forester Jim Pena, but they’re even more suspicious of the agency as a result.


Baker in pot sales bull’s-eye

Now that the Baker City Council has stepped onto the shaky legal ground of banning commercial marijuana sales in the city, we hope councilors will avoid walking into the potentially expensive morass of a lawsuit.

We expect that, were the matter to go to city voters, a majority would support the Council’s move to ban marijuana shops.

But we’re skeptical that the majority would continue to back their elected officials in a legal challenge that could siphon money from important city services.


Ted Cruz has nothing to offer

Imagine a politician so desperate to stay relevant that he runs out and takes the most contrary position possible to any rational argument. We don’t have to imagine, though, since we have Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, now a GOP presidential contender.

Cruz, who asked the American people during his announcement speech to imagine his notion of an ideal future, is in big trouble amid stagnant approval ratings. A February poll in Texas showed that even Texas Republicans are split between him and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for their party’s presidential nomination.

A year and a half ago, Cruz seemed like an unstoppable, albeit polarizing, force among conservatives, successfully bullying his colleagues into a government shutdown and stirring debate over whether his being Canadian-born was a bar to the presidency. All the while, his smirk seemed to promise an end to conservative woes.

Today, Cruz is in a very different place. Now, everything he does seems a little funny, out of step or downright odd.


Bills aim to fix program

One way Oregon’s counties help attract new business is by offering companies property tax relief for a period of years. It’s a good deal for businesses, and, despite the loss of potential property tax revenue, it’s good for counties, as well.

Forgoing taxes does take a toll, however. New and bigger businesses and new jobs often mean increased demand for local services and more students in local schools. The state works to soften the blow by sending some income tax dollars back to the counties as what’s called gain share.

The system is far from perfect, however, and now competing bills in the state Senate seek to fix the worst of its problems. While both are better than the status quo, the one sponsored by Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, and Reps. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, is the better of the two.


Integrate mental health care


Talk to mental health professionals and it’s clear many would like to see Oregon’s delivery of mental health care changed. 

Two bills now before the Oregon Legislature, Senate Bill 831 and Senate Bill 832, would do that and in the process would improve mental health care for Oregon Health Plan clients.

They should be approved.


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