ELECTION 2014: Voters evaluate track records of Oregon gubernatorial candidates

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/15/2014

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is on the ballot again, and his main challenger is Republican state Rep. Dennis Richardson.

Kitzhaber is seeking a second term for the second time. He was also governor from 1995 to 2003.

During his first stint at the Capitol, Kitzhaber frustrated many truckers with the veto of a bill in 2001 that sought to increase the state’s speed limit. The bill would have authorized ODOT to raise the speed limit from 55 mph to 65 mph for trucks and from 65 mph to 70 mph for cars on rural stretches of Interstates 5 and 84.

A former doctor, Kitzhaber said at the time he was concerned the speed increase would encourage drivers to drive even faster, making the roads more dangerous.

Oregon’s speed limits remain unchanged.

His second time around at the helm has resulted in other notable actions.

In 2013, Kitzhaber signed a bill into law to implement a vehicle miles traveled fee for motorists. Of course, truckers driving in the state already pay a tax based on weight and distance traveled.

The pilot program for motorists is slated to start in 2015 using volunteers. As many as 5,000 motorists will pay by the mile using GPS technology or at the pump via a wireless transponder.

Meanwhile, the volunteers will continue to pay fuel taxes at the pump. The state will reimburse motorists the difference between the fuel taxes and the amount owed in mileage taxes.

During the 2011 regular session, Kitzhaber took action on two issues of relevance to truckers.

The first rule change forbids indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.

Affected contracts are defined as any written agreement for the transportation of property for compensation or hire, entry on property to load, unload or transport property, or any service incidental to such activity, including the packing or storage of property.

The other change set a statewide standard for idling. Specifically, commercial vehicles are prohibited from idling for more than five minutes each hour on property open to the public.

Various exceptions to the rule are included.

Richardson has spent the past decade serving in the Oregon House of Representatives.

He voted against a 2009 law to raise $300 million annually for road and bridge fixes. The transportation package included increases in gas taxes, weight-mile taxes and vehicle fees.

Instead, Richardson advocated for eliminating the state’s gas tax in favor of a mileage-based transportation tax. At the time, he cited concerns about the state’s primary reliance on the excise tax.

“Reliance on the gas tax to fund our transportation system will be unsound in an Oregon where high fuel efficiency and reduced gas consumption will become the rule,” he wrote in a newsletter.

During this year’s campaign season, Richardson said road work could be funded by the Legislature simply by prioritizing transportation ahead of other construction projects.

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