Water right fees dry up hope
When the Oregon Legislature adjourned its six-month session and went home, it left a sour taste in the mouth of some water users -- an overall 13 percent increase in water right transaction fees.
Oregon Water Resources Director Phil Ward pointed out that's the "average fee" but he needs to understand that a double-digit percentage increase for any state fees during a soft economy is totally out of line.
The fees included in House Bill 2259 now go to the state water resources commission. It should take immediate action to reel in those fees to no more than the rate of inflation.
We understand that state agencies are being asked to fund their activities through fees paid by the people who use those particular services. We also have a problem with that. The state's budget mess is in large part caused by this piecemeal system that creates cubby holes of money in nearly every state agency while only about 20 percent of the state's overall budget goes into the general fund.
That budget system is a mess, and the water resources department's jacked-up fees are a symptom of that.
In some other states every revenue dollar must go into the general fund. Then the legislature sets its priorities and decides how much government the state's taxpayers can afford.
In Oregon, that system does not exist, because nearly every agency has cubby holes for fees that are supposed to pay for services rendered. The only problem is the fees are based on the agency's cost of doing business, something that fee payers cannot control.
We doubt that the state's broken budgetary system will ever be fixed. But we are sure that those water right transfer fees will continue to increase above and beyond the rate of inflation.
The best part of HB2259 is the sunset provision. If the commission or the legislature don't cancel the fee increases, they will automatically expire on July 1, 2017.
For those unfortunate souls who find themselves saddled with the increases, 2017 couldn't come soon enough.