Senior Staff Writer

Carbon credits could become more valuable than lumber. Or be a Ponzi scheme by a former presidential candidate.

Measure 97 could kill – or help — local small businesses.

These were among the assertions thrown out by seven candidates for the state legislature who attended a forum Monday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Candidates for House Districts 1 and 7, and for Senate District 1 attended the forum, sponsored by the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

David Brock Smith is a Curry County commissioner and former chamber of commerce director in Port Orford. He said he would focus on business and natural resource issues if elected to House District 1.

“I have an agenda, and that is to be the best advocate for rural Oregon’s industries, businesses and residents that I can possibly be,” Smith said.

House District 1 covers Southwestern Douglas County, along with Curry County and portions of Coos and Josephine counties. The incumbent is not seeking re-election.

Libertarian candidate Tamie Kaufman said she’s all about doing what’s best for business.

“Business is important. It’s the backbone of any economy. We need to have lots of small businesses, a few big businesses and have people work together. Any legislation that is against business should not be passed,” she said.

Terry Brayer, a Vietnam veteran and retired corrections officer from Gold Beach is the Democratic candidate for House District 1. He said he wants to bring change.

“We need to have a unified voice and I’d like to be able to bring people together and let everybody have a seat at the table,” he said.

He cited homelessness as an important concern, and was the only candidate to mention the proposed Pacific Connector pipeline. He’s an opponent of using eminent domain to put a pipeline across private property.

Vincent Portulano, Democratic challenger for House District 7, said optimism is dwindling in Southern Oregon that upward mobility can be achieved. He has three main goals: to revitalize the economy, to make health care affordable and to repair the education system.

“Only 36 percent of the jobs lost in Douglas County have been recovered,” he said.

District 7 covers South Lane and North Douglas counties, including the communities of Sutherlin, Yoncalla, Elkton, Drain and Glide.

Fergus Mclean, a retired forester from Dexter is the Independent Party candidate, said each town in the district has “its own character and its own way of dealing” with the changes in the timber industry.

Mclean argues that the carbon-rich forests in his district will become extremely valuable as people begin to pay good money for carbon sequestration.

“It’s starting to look like carbon credits could become even more valuable than lumber,” he said. “We could be looking at a whole new kind of forest economy.”

Incumbent Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek, could not attend due to a scheduling conflict.

Timm Rolek, Democratic challenger for state Senate District 1, came out swinging. He said incumbent Sen. Jeff Kruse played “political games” instead of leading when he voted against a spending bill that covered funding for rebuilding Umpqua Community College’s Snyder Hall, along with many unrelated items.

Rolek lives in Brookings and is the music director of the Lake Tahoe Music Festival. He said he wants to improve education, citing excessive high school dropout rates and poor reading skills among third graders.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are not racing to the bottom in education, we own it,” Rolek said. “I for one am angry, embarrassed and ashamed that to this we’ve come. I am firm in my conviction that anyone who served on deck when this ship started sinking needs to be replaced.”

Kruse said his 20 years experience in the legislature is needed.

“Oregon doesn’t have a money problem, it has a spending problem,” he said. “This biennium we’re in now, we had $2 billion more to spend, and we did not spend it appropriately. We keep putting ourselves more and more in debt and the state budget has risen by 50 percent in eight years. Something needs to change.”

Kruse also said that man-made global warming exists in computer models and “nowhere else.”

“Quite honestly carbon credits were a Ponzi scheme created by Al Gore which he has got incredibly wealthy on. We don’t need to go down the pathway of money for nothing,” he said.

In response to a question on Measure 97, many candidates said they oppose it.

Rolek had a different take. He said one of his favorite small businesses in Brookings is a company called Superfly that he said makes amazing vodka. Measure 97 would help that business, he said, because it would tax big national liquor distributors that bring in competitors like Smirnoff and Grey Goose.

He said Measure 97 “is not perfect, but what it will accomplish is leveling the tax burden playing field between local small businesses like Superfly vodka and its Russian competitors.”

Smith said 97 is a “horrible tax.”

“Measure 97 will hurt small businesses the most, because that tax is going to be taxed at every level, from production to the supplier to the distributor,” he said. “By the time it gets to you at your local grocery store, you’re going to be having to pay 7.5 to 10 percent more.”

Kaufman, also an opponent, called the measure a “sales tax on steroids.”

Brayer said it didn’t matter what he thought, it’s up to the voters.

Mclean said he expects it will pass, and that most of the cost will be borne by large out-of-state businesses.

“At some point bigness doesn’t benefit people in communities, and you could look at this as a tax on bigness,” he said.

Portulano supports Measure 97 to ensure that corporations are “paying a fair share to improving our society, our education system, the schools, our roads and whatnot.”

Kruse opposes Measure 97.

“If this thing passes, we have just opened the barn door for taxes that you couldn’t believe and quite honestly I would like to see Umpqua Dairy still stay in business,” Kruse said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4213 or by email at ccegavske@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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