Governor Julius L. Meier's Administration
Governor's Message, 1931
Source: STATE OF OREGON MESSAGE Of Julius L. Meier, Governor To the Thirty-sixth LegislativeAssembly 1931
To the Honorable Members of the Legislature of the State of Oregon:
We are assembled here today to consider and determine ways and means to advance the general welfare of the state and its people.
As the regularly elected members of this, The Thirty-sixth Legislative Assembly, you are convened to provide revenue for the administration of the state government, to examine into its departments and institutions and to enact needed legislation.
As the regularly elected executive, I appear before your body to confer with you as to the condition of the state generally and to recommend such legislation as I may deem beneficial.
It is your prerogative to accept or reject these recommendations.
It is the executive’s prerogative to approve or veto any legislation you may enact.
It is you prerogative to sustain or over-ride any such vetoed legislation.
It is the prerogative of the people, in turn, to invoke the referendum against any legislation which may be enacted if they deem it inimical to their best interests.
In this connection, may I direct your attention to the fact that it has been a rather prevalent practice on the part of past legislatures to affix the emergency clause to appropriation bills, thereby denying the right of the people to invoke the referendum against this class of legislation. Consequently I recommend that you attach the emergency clause only to legislation where a real emergency exists.
LEGISLATURE TO RAISE REVENUE
In this connection, may I also call your attention, as did the late Governor Patterson, to Section 2 of Article IX of the State Constitution, and Section 6 of the same article.
Section 2 provides: “The legislative assembly shall provide for raising revenue sufficient to defray the expenses of the state for each fiscal year, and also a sufficient sum to pay the interest on the state debt, if there be any.”
Section 6 provides: “Whenever the expenses of any fiscal year shall exceed the income, the legislative assembly shall provide for levying a tax for the ensuing fiscal year, sufficient, with other sources of income, to pay the deficiency as well as the estimated expense of the ensuing fiscal year.”
It was clearly the intention of the framers of our constitution, under these two sections, to not only lodge responsibility in the legislative assembly for raising revenue to defray the operating expense of the state government, but to also provide ways and means for meeting just such a situation as the present state deficit which our treasury has been confronted with for several years past, and which now totals approximately $2,500,000.ABOLISH MACHINE RULE
In the past the legislature has been severely criticized because of machine rule and its attendant evils of log rolling and trafficking in legislation.
Past legislatures have also been severely criticized on account of their subserviency to the special interests lobby, excess legislation and extravagance.
As your executive, it will be my policy to consider all legislation strictly on its merits, to approve only such as I believe essential for the welfare of the people, and to keep governmental expenses down to the lowest level consistent with efficiency. To accomplish this I need and am confident of receiving your hearty cooperation.
Let us unite in making this session of such a high type that it will be free from the evils I have recounted—of such a high type that it will go down in history as Oregon’s most progressive, constructive and economical legislative assembly.
With these preliminary observations I will now proceed to recommend legislation I deem essential of enactment.
THE JOSEPH PLATFORM
The platform on which the late Senator George W. Joseph was nominated for Governor in the May Republican primary, and on which I was elected ot this office as an Independent in the recent general election, comprised the following planks:
First—Freedom of speech and justice.
Second—Abolition of the Public Service Commission and the substitution therefore of equitable utility regulation, with a Home Rule provision for municipalities.
Third—Government, state or municipal development of our water power resources without cost to the taxpayers so that cheap power may be made available for industrial purposes and domestic use in our cities and rural communities.
DENIAL OF FREE SPEECH DOUBLE WRONG
The free speech and justice plank was precipitated by the disbarment of Senator Joseph on account of his criticisms of the conduct and decisions of two members of the Supreme Court—an issue on which he was vindicated by the people through his nomination to the Governorship.
In a republic it is absolutely essential that there be freedom of speech.
Without free speech there can be no ascertainment of the truth, no progress, no advancement on the part of the state or nation.
Every citizen, be his station high or humble, has the right to give his reasons for the course he pursues and the suppression of this right constitutes a double wrong—it denies the right of one to speak and the people to hear.
The law is presumed to protect free speech, even to voicing wrong ideas, for every citizen has the right to his opinion. It is better a thousand times that the right of free speech be abused than that it be denied; for the abuse dies in a day, but the denial of free speech strikes at the very foundation of our American form of government.
PUBLIC UTILITY REGULATION
Regulation of public utilities is one of the most important functions of state.
In this state it involves valuations running into hundreds of millions of dollars, the fixing of rates and charges collected from the public running to tens of millions of dollars annually, and supervision over many of our largest and most important business enterprises.
Transportation companies, power, gas telephone and other public utilities touch the health, the comfort, convenience and purse of almost every citizen. The rates they are permitted to impose and collect are almost as widely distributed as public taxes.
Holding companies, inter-locking directorates and other corporate devices have been and are being used to confuse financial operations, outlays, earnings and other phases of public utility management, and add to the difficulties of rate making and regulation generally.
At present in this state there is no real competition among public utilities even though engaged in the same line of business. In fields where two or more utilities offer the same type of service competition is effectively prevented by regulation of the Public Service Commission and by agreement between the utilities, or both.
Since 1911 the regulatory powers in this state have been vested in what is called the Public Service Commission.
The underlying purpose of creating the commission was to provide a sufficient instrumentality to represent the people in securing adequate service at reasonable rates. The necessity for such an instrumentality arose out of the fact that the public is not organized or equipped to meet public utilities on equal terms in controversies over rates and service.
With the personnel of this commission I have no quarrel, as the regulatory machinery under which it operates has imposed upon it a task impossible of performance.
ABOLISH PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
Because regulation as it now exists in this state has proven an utter failure, I recommend abolition of the Public Service Commission as now constituted and the creation of a Department of Public Utilities to consist a single commissioner, and with a salary adequate to secure the services of a man of experience and first class ability.
In addition to being vested with powers which the public service commission may now exercise, such commissioner should be charged by law with the specific duty of representing the public in all controversies with utilities affecting rates, valuations and service, and his chief duty should be to protect the public on any and all occasions to the end that the people may obtain adequate service at fair rates.
Such commissioner should also have supervision over the issuance of all stocks, bonds, securities and obligations by utility companies, all consolidations, mergers, purchases and sales of property by them, except insofar as jurisdiction concerning such matters may be vested in a Hydro-electric Commission concerning projects constructed or operated under license issued by such commission.
I recommend further that legislation be enacted extending the Home Rule principle, with adequate safeguards, to municipalities so that they may enjoy, fi they so elect, the right to contract by franchise, or otherwise, with any public utilities as to rates, service and facilities within their respective boundaries.
I recommend further that the so-called Certificate of Convenience and Necessity Act, under which all competition is barred in the utility field, be repealed.
I recommend further that legislation be enacted limiting and circumscribing the right of one public utility corporation to contract with another corporation for service, or the use of property, or the purchase of property or supplies, when:
The public utilities corporation owns the majority of the voting stock of the other contracting corporation, or;
The majority of the voting stock of the public utilities corporation and the majority of the voting stock of the other contracting corporation are owned by a third corporation.
GOVERNMENT DEVELOPMENT OF WATER POWER
Initial steps toward the development of water power in accordance with the policy of the Joseph platform have been taken in connection with the Umatilla Rapids on the Columbia River—bills having been introduced in Congress for the construction of this project. With the late Senator George W. Joseph, I was one of the early advocates of this water power development, and am now President of the Umatilla Rapids Association.
The Umatilla Rapids project, which has been appropriately described as the Boulder Dam of the Pacific Northwest, contemplates flood control, navigation and reclamation, as well as the development of 420,000 continuous horse power at a generation cost of 1.2 mills—the lowest rate in America.
With some additional improvement, the Umatilla Dam would canalize the Columbia River to the mouth of the Snake—a distance of approximately 360 miles. Once canalized this stream would come within the purview of the Inland Waterway Transportation Act, under which cheap barge transportation could be made available.
The bill now pending in Congress adequately safeguards the rights of the people.
Provision is made in the measure for a division with the states of Oregon and Washington of power revenues after the retirement of construction costs, and which revenues will materially reduce our tax burden.
Under its provisions municipalities are also given preference rights in the purchase of power developed.
The Umatilla Rapids Project is directly in the public interest.
It is necessary as a national defense measure.
It will prove an aid to agriculture, lower transportation charges, reduce production costs, stimulate industry, encourage commercial expansion, relieve the present employment depression, create a demand for structural materials and food supplies, and pave the way for the development of the state’s latent resources.
As a federal development, the project will provide a source of cheap power for utility districts which may be organized in accordance with the Grange Water and Power District constitutional amendments adopted at the recent general elections in the states of Oregon and Washington.
It is entirely in harmony with the water power program to which my administration as Governor has been committed by the mandate of the people of Oregon, and I urge vigorous support on the part of all citizens in favor of this project and recommend that your body memorialize Congress for its immediate construction.
CONSERVE STATE’S POWER RESOURCES
Oregon has within its boundaries water power resources capable of producing approximately 6,000,000 horse power.
Most of this natural resource is still dormant, approximately only 350,000 horse power—a little more than five per cent of the potential power available having been developed.
These vast water power resources belong to the people of Oregon and should be preserved and developed for their benefit and that of future generations.
I, therefore, recommend the enactment of legislation creating a Hydro-electric Commission of three members to serve without pay, one of whom shall be, ex-officio, the State Engineer, and which commission shall have jurisdiction over the use and development of the water power resources of this state for the generation of electricity.
It should be the duty of this commission to investigate and study the water power resources of the state, the most feasible method for the development and utilization thereof, including development costs and available markets for power, and it should cooperate with the federal government and adjoining states in regard to any projects in inter-state waters.
The commission should have the power to issue permits to enable private corporations and municipalities to make the necessary preliminary investigations as to the feasibility of a proposed project, which permits should be limited as to time, be issued upon conditions that will require reasonably prompt action and terminate upon the expiration of the period specified therein.
The commission should also have the power to issue licenses under which projects might be constructed and operated and should be given the discretion to refuse any application for a permit or a license.
The license should specify the conditions upon which the project should be developed and operated.
Provision should be made for the accurate ascertainment of the legitimate actual investment in any project constructed under a license, and the utility corporation, whether private or municipal, constructing and operating a project under a license should be limited to a reasonable return upon the actual legitimate net investment thereof.
Provision should also be made for the set up of amortization reserves for the payment or reimbursement of the invested capital so that during, or at the expiration of the license, the invested capital so far as practical could be repaid.
GIVE MUNICIPALITIES PREFERENCE
Preference should be given to the application of municipalities, and a municipality or the state should have the right to take over the project upon payment of an amount not exceeding the actual investment at the time of its acquirement.
The legislation should contemplate that at some time the capital invested in any project should be repaid out of earnings so that the project could revert to the state, to be disposed of or operated under such legislation as the sate might hereinafter enact.
A reasonable annual charge for each horsepower embraced within the license should be paid to the state of Oregon.
Under such regulation our water power resources would for all time remain the property of the State, private corporations and municipalities would be given the right under a license to development and use of the same and the sate would obtain reasonable compensation for the use of its waters in the generation of electricity.
Moreover, the rates paid by the people would be based upon the actual legitimate net investment in the project. The public would be protected against the issuance of corporate stocks and bonds against such project in excess of the actual investment, the capital invested therein would be assured of reasonable return upon the money actually invested and the repayment through amortization reserves or the purchase or other acquisition of a project by a municipality or the state by the repayment of the actual net investment.
Finally such regulation would eliminate speculation in an unsound promotion of water power sites and water power resources, and would serve to guard more adequately the public interest, and the capital invested whether by a municipality or a private corporation.
Legislation has been drafted covering these subjects and will be presented early in the session for your consideration
WATER POWER DISTRICTS LEGISLATION
At the recent general election the people of the state enacted the People’s Water and Power District constitutional amendment, initiated by the Oregon State Grange.
This amendment is an enabling act which authorizes the creation of utility districts for the public development of power, either independently or cooperatively. Supplementary legislation will be needed to make this amendment operative. I am informed this legislation has been prepared for submission to your body by the Oregon State Grange, and I commend it to your favorable consideration.
SALVAGE OREGON IRRIGATION DISTRICTS
Oregon has a total of 63 irrigation districts organized under state laws.
Of these, 46 are active and include within their boundaries approximately 444,688 irrigable acres.
Bonds totaling $12,330,000 have been sold in connection with those projects, of which $11,871,000 have been certified by the State.
The State guaranteed the interest on $9,384,000 of these bonds and has paid interest aggregating $2,168,260.
Fifteen irrigation districts are now in default in payment of interest and principal on their bonds.
In accordance with the bonding act of 1927 the State Reclamation Commission has undertaken the re-organization of ten districts, which are in various states of progress.
It is believed that little, if any, legislation is needed to aid in the settlement of the irrigation difficulties, and that the program as now under way can be successfully carried out and a considerable number of the districts salvaged.
BONDED DEBT SECOND IN U.S.
Oregon’s bonded indebtedness is the second greatest per capita in the United States, South Dakota occupying first place.
According to the State Treasurer’s report the debt of the State and its political sub-divisions totals $230,198,116.47, of which sum $218,153,345.71 represents outstanding bonds, and $12,044,770.76 warrants and other obligations. Included in the total are highway bonds aggregating $28,966,750 and the Soldiers’ Bonus Bonds aggregating $27,250,000.
Against this indebtedness the State and its municipal corporations have sinking funds aggregating $44,557,491.24, leaving a net debt of $185,640,625.23.
Were this outstanding indebtedness of the State and its political sub-divisions distributed uniformly over its entire area it would represent a per capita debt of approximately $195 for each inhabitant of the State, and approximately 16.5 per cent of the assessed valuation of all property in the State.
It is estimated that during the last 13 years the State of Oregon has paid the gigantic sum of $25,999,492.22 in interest on its bonded indebtedness.
It is further estimated that it will cost the State an additional $27,447,017.77 in interest on outstanding bonds before they are finally matured.
These are stupendous figures and emphasize the need of rigid retrenchment in the future on the part of the State and its sub-divisions to the end that our outstanding indebtedness may be reduced to the lowest possible minimum consistence with progress and advancement.
STATE REQUIREMENTS MORE THAN $60,000,000
According to the report of the State Budge Commissioner the financial requirements of the state for the ensuing biennium total more than $60,000,000.
Of this amount $17,444,889 represents continuing appropriations and millage taxes, from which sum there are to be deducted license and fees aggregating $214,000 leaving a balance of $17,230,889.
The state deficit is estimated at $3,091,175.10, included in which is $588,691 in the way of deficiencies authorized during the past biennium, and when this sum is added to the above balance we have a total of $20,322,064.10.
The remaining forty odd millions represents revenue derived from various sources and expended by various so-called self-sustaining boards, commissions and departments.
These self-sustaining boards, commissions and departments expend this giant sum without being subject to the restraining hand of either of either the legislature or the executive.
In fact, out of the sixty odd million estimated for the administration of the state government for the ensuing biennium the executive officially approves less than nine million.
I recommend a policy be formulated whereby these departments must appear before the Ways and Means Committee and justify their expenditures in the same manner as state departments dependent upon direct appropriation from the legislature.
I recommend further that the legislature probe into state expense accounts with a view of establishing a standardized expenditure system for various state departments to the end that extravagance be avoided.
Economy was a dominant pre-election pledge of you as members of the legislature, as well as myself.
It devolves upon us to redeem this pledge, and to do so we must make economy the keynote of this Thirty-sixth Legislative Session.
Everything that concerns expenditures merits your most serious consideration.
We should pursue the same principle where state funds are involved that we do when our own money is concerned.
We would then insist on one hundred cents of value for every dollar expended, and we should insist upon the same full measure of value where a dollar of the people’s money is expended.
TAX PUBLIC POWER PLANTS
The program I advocate for the development of the State’s water power resources and its industrial expansion has an important bearing on the future of taxation in Oregon.
While favoring the public development of water power, it is not my policy to exempt such development from taxation.
Were the districts within which the development occurs the only jurisdiction to be considered the exemption would be of no great concern.
But, it must be borne in mind that such districts, municipal or otherwise, are parts of wider jurisdictions and that such exemption would throw an increased burden of taxation on citizens not participating in the benefits of the service.
To subject such properties and developments, whether private or public, to the same general rate of taxation would mean that a part of the advantage that springs from hydro-electric development would accrue generally to the people of Oregon.
With the development in the fullest desirable degree of cheap hydro-electric power, Oregon will become the seat of flourishing industries, especially those that utilize raw materials, the products of our forests and our farms.
Moreover, such industries will sell on the interstate and foreign market and derive from without an income and tax-paying ability that can be reached by levies on plant and by properly adjusted taxes on income or volume of business.
We must, of course, as development occurs expect some additions to state and local budgets, but in the nature of things the public expenditure will not increase as rapidly as the increasing capacity to pay, and the taxpayers’ burden will be lightened by the wide diffusion and the relief that comes through augmenting tax paying ability by developing the latent resources of Oregon.
REAL PROPERTY TAX BURDENSOME
Approximately $60,000,000 are collected annually from the people of Oregon by state and local governments in the form of taxes---or approximately one dollar out of every ten that accrues to them in the form of income of every description.
More important than the grand total of the tax burden is the undue concentration of the load upon property and real estate.
Fully 80 per cent of these contributions to public expenses is taken from property, and due to the shrinking percentage of total assessments in the form of personal property some 88 per cent of property taxes is borne by real estate.
While real estate does not account for one-fifth of the income of the people, yet under the existing system it is compelled to bear seven-tenth of the cost of local and state governments.
The rate of taxation has soared to a point in at least seven Oregon cities where it exceeds six per cent on the true cash value of property, and in fourteen it rises above five per cent.
Nor is this evil confined to the cities.
Farm lands are everywhere bearing the same disproportionate share of taxes for the support of rural institutions and timber lands for many years waiting a market for their product are subjected to successive annual levies at increasing rates that threaten to extinguish their value.
Each returning session of the legislature was confronted with the problem of property tax relief in more insistent and compelling form until the assembly of 1929 made some provision for relief to the overburdened property owner, and the full measure of relief afforded should be continued, and if possible extended.
Agriculture and lumber were already languishing before 1929, and since then have felt the full effect of nation-wide depression.
As farming and lumbering constitute two of our basic industries it is essential to restoration of prosperity in the state that they be brought back to normalcy.
CONSOLIDATE ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES
One of our great problems is the increasing cost of government.
Latent powers have been invoked with the result that government has become more and more complex---more and more expensive.
Regulation has assumed the widest possible scope
Few, if any, occupations, trades or classes of employment have escaped. A mass of legislation, more or less of it ill-considered, has been enacted.
Administrative agencies have multiplied to a bewildering degree.
Several separate commissions now exercise jurisdiction over matters affecting agriculture, several boards administer our labor laws, several agencies our health laws, and several departments control our finances, with little or no effective coordination between them.
Deviation rather than concentration and responsibility marks our system.
Legislation should be enacted consolidating these multiplied agencies into single departments, which would result not only in greater efficiency, but in economy of administration.
The executive is held responsible for the conduct of the state government and his executive functions should be discharged through a limited number of agencies over which he may exercise actual control. In the present state of bewildering confusion the Governor cannot exercise the effective supervision and control which the people have a right to demand.
CRIME COSTS NATION BILLIONS
Crime has become one of the biggest industries in the United States, its yearly return being approximately $13,000,000,000.
It is estimated that crime costs our nation twice as much as the national budget, more than we loaned our allies during the war, and approximately one-half as much as this country expended in the prosecution of the World War.
Last year approximately 12,000 persons were murdered in this country. This is an appalling figure, representing approximately three times the total loss of life in the Spanish American War.
Oregon is no exception. Like all other states, Oregon has its crime problem, probably not as grave as some, but nevertheless a serious one.
The question naturally arises as to where the blame lies for this deplorable condition.
Does it lie in our police machinery, our judicial system, or misuse of the parole and pardoning power.
While responsibility probably does not lie wholly at the door of any single one of these agencies, the attempted enforcement of our penal laws by different sets o flaw enforcing officers, who not only fail to cooperate but are often in opposition to one another, is largely to blame.
We have a set of officers to enforce the fish laws, another to enforce the game laws, another to enforce forestry laws, another to enforce the traffic laws, another to enforce the prohibition laws, another to enforce the arson laws, and finally sheriffs, constables and policemen, all of them more or less isolated unites, to enforce generally the laws of our State and the ordinances of our cities.
CRIME REMEDY IN STATE POLICE
Oregon has no single body whose duty it is to bring to justice those who commit offense against the laws of the state.
Eight American states—New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan and Massachusetts—have instituted State Police Departments, to combat the crime problem, and effect a more efficient administration of our criminal laws generally.
These State Police not only enforce criminal laws generally, but also enforce the traffic, forest, game and prohibition laws.
Probably the three principal factors which are fostering the creation of State Police Departments are the use of automobiles and paved highways in the commission of crime, the necessity for cooperation in rural communities in the apprehension of criminals and the need of organized preventive factors.
In America the sovereign power resides in the people who speak through the law.
Consequently whenever a law is disregarded the sovereignty of the people is challenged and no sovereign power can long endure unless it has the vigor and will to vindicate itself.
The best law badly administered is worse than none.
As executive of the state I am charged with the execution of its laws, and I am convinced that to enable me to rigidly enforce them Oregon must emulate the successful example of other states and establish a State Police System.
It cost the State of Oregon approximately $910,000 during the last biennium to enforce traffic, fish, game, prohibition, forestry and arson laws, and the estimated requirement for the ensuing biennium is $1,088,100.
A State Police System ought to save the people of Oregon at least one-third and possibly one-half of this huge expenditure.
SIMPLIFY AND CURTAIL LEGISLATION
I earnestly urge the legislature to curtail, so far as possible, the volume of legislation enacted.
Broadly speaking, we have too much legislation, too many statutory rules of human conduct which are either forgotten or disregarded.
A law which is habitually disregarded, which prescribes penalties that are not enforced, is worse than no law, because its violation with impunity breeds lawlessness.
Laws which are not to be enforced should be repealed.
Laws which remain in the statute books should be vigorously and fearlessly enforced.
I believe that the influence of the home, of parental admonition and restraint, of the church, schools and other social agencies for building character is the most potent enemy of lawlessness, and that without this salutary influence social order and good government are impossible.
OLD AGE SECURITY
Old Age Pensions have been adopted in a number of states and I recommend the adoption of similar legislation in Oregon.
Old Age Pensions are not charity and we must not allow them to appear as such, as it is the duty of the state to provide for the aged.
The poorhouse should be abolished forever.
SCHOOLHOUSE FORTRESS OF DEMOCRACY
Civilization itself depends upon our public schools and higher institutions of learning.
Next to the home our schools exert the greatest influence on the character of citizenship.
From our schools have come the men and women who have left their footprints on the sands of time.
Consequently, the most important business of the state is the training and education of our children. Education should be free to everyone—free as the air we breathe.
In my platform I advocated free text books and I now recommend to you the adoption of such legislation so that children of the poor will be on equality with children of the rich. There must be no exclusively educated, no superior class in America.
EX-SERVICE MEN ENTITLED TO PREFERENCE
The men who did not hesitate to offer their lives on the altar of their country in time of war should have first call on state employment.
The veteran is proud of the service he rendered his country and puts no price upon it.
He does not ask that he be given employment over men more competent.
But he does deserve first attention when qualifications are equal and should receive this consideration at every opportunity.
The matter of rehabilitation and hospitalization of the wreckage of our last great war is a tremendous problem which is being met by the federal government. The state should cooperate with federal agencies whenever possible to lighten the burden and the pain of those for whom the war has never ended.
SUPPRESS NARCOTIC EVIL
The last legislature created a commission to study narcotic conditions in Oregon and other coast states, with a view of drafting legislation to more effectively suppress this evil.
I am informed that this commission has prepared for introduction a code patterned after the uniform narcotic law endorsed by the American Bar Association, and I commend it to your favorable consideration.
PROTECT FISH AND GAME
Our commercial fisheries constitute the state’s third greatest industry, and our fish and game resources, together with Oregon’s scenic wealth, constitute one of the strongest attractions to visitors.
These fish and game resources are the common property of the people, and their protection and propagation are of the utmost importance.
This great heritage can only suffer if permitted to become the spoils of politics.
A careful, scientific field survey of our game life is needed, as we know so little of the habits of game birds, animals and fish.
In connection with our game affairs we are spending approximately $400,000 annually, a huge sum to be spent without some basic facts and a more careful check on results.
STREAM POLLUTION MENACE
With the building of mills, factories, manufacturing plants and the growth of towns and cities along our waterways, a number of Oregon streams are facing ruin and others are threatened.
The wastes of industries and the combined filth of municipal corporations are dumped into public waters to such an extent that some streams are like open sewers, spreading disease to people and destroying fish-life.
It is subject deserving of your serious consideration and appropriate remedial legislation.
A NON-PARTISAN JUDICIARY
In my opinion, the non-partisan judiciary is essential to a better administration of justice in Oregon.
It is not the function of any court to adopt or enforce party principles.
Consequently, it is immaterial what a Judge’s political affiliations may be, but it is tremendously important that he be upright and qualified from a legal viewpoint to fill the position he occupies.
Our judiciary is the bulwark of our liberties—the rights of men and the rights of property rest in its hands. This being true it is absolutely mandatory that our courts be maintained free from even a suspicion of bias or political partnership.
SALARY RAIDS DENOUNCED
Past legislative sessions have been subjected to what has been characterized by the press of the state as salary increase raids on our State Treasury, and I trust that no such legislation will be presented during this session.
I firmly believe whenever any official accepts public office he impliedly contracts with the public to discharge its duties at the salary fixed.
PRESERVE STATE SCENIC WEALTH
Unrivalled in mountain and forest scenery, picturesque rivers and angling streams, Oregon is destined to become one of the great playgrounds of America.
Much of this marvelous scenery is already accessible through the state’s magnificent highway system and more and more of it is being made so each year.
Since this scenic wealth constitutes one of the state’s greatest assets, it is essential that we fully preserve and protect it. We should save our forests along our remaining highways, protect our sea beaches, add to our roadside parks, and finally maintain our highways free from commercial ugliness and beautify them by planting trees and shrubbery.
PRACTICAL HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION
Since the inauguration of its highway program in 1917 Oregon has expended more than $130,000,000 in road construction.
The maximum amount of bonds issued in connection with this construction work was $40,200,000 and, including $1,500,000 issued to match federal aid, there were outstanding on January 1, 1931, bonds totaling $28,966,750.
We are now at the peak of the requirements of bond maturities and interests, the total for this year being $3,361,522.13, and that for next year $3,275,475.15.
The estimated revenue for this year is $14,870,000, and there was a balance of $2,000,000 on hand the first of the year, making a total of $16,870,000.
The estimated requirements for the year, including contracts already awarded, interest on bonds, cooperation on forest road work, and maintenance aggregate $11,956,522, leaving $4,913,478 for new construction.
I favor a continuance of our highway program along practical and sound lines, with liberal consideration for our present unemployment situation, which it will be my most earnest endeavor as Governor to relieve.
REPEAL MILLAGE MARKET ROAD TAX
Moreover, I believe that our highway program has progressed to the stage where the State Highway Fund should absorb the one mill Market Road Tax which has been levied on property for the past eleven years.
This tax totals $1,125,165.59 for this year, and in view of the fact that Oregon is well in advance of practically every state in the west in road building, and in view of the further fact that the taxpayers in general, and those of agricultural sections in particular, are in urgent need of tax relief, I recommend that the tax be repealed.
I recommend for early passage legislation allowing the construction of highway improvements such as tunnels, roads and bridges by the Utility Certificate Method. This plan has been successfully employed for years in other states. It will bring to Oregon outside capital with which major highway improvements can be built and paid for with the income from the utility only, and when so constructed and paid for in full will become the property of the state without and additional taxation or bonding of the state. Such is the tunnel act that will be offered as a law in this session of the legislature. It will help immediately to relieve our unemployment situation, as about eighty pre cent of this class of construction cost consists of labor.
OLYMPIC GAMES COME WEST
The Olympic games at Los Angeles during the summer of 1932 will bring to the Pacific Coast an unusually large number of eastern visitors.
At that time the searchlight of public interest will play along our shores of the Pacific.
While the stadium at Los Angeles will be the focal point of interest, the unrivalled playground of the west, our national parks, together with the lure of our splendid highways—including our wonderful new Roosevelt Highway which should be completed as speedily as possible—should be always in the picture.
We, of the Northwest, should join with other coast communities in the united effort to impress our prospective visitors with the lure of our great out of doors.
Above all, let every citizen be a welcoming host with hospitality and loyalty as unbounded as the land where rolls the Oregon.
AN AUTOCRATIC COMMISSION
As now constituted, the Port of Portland Commission is an autocracy. Although local in character its personnel is named by the State Legislature. Although empowered to levy taxes, it is a nowise amendable to the taxpayers of the district and although authorized to make public expenditures, it is accountable to no one. This commission is a law unto itself. It can enact ordinances, it can buy machinery and equipment, it can own property and reclaim land and build docks, and issue bonds. It can do any and all of these things when it pleases and as it pleases. It is the only political institution in the State—probably the United States—that can levy and collect taxes without giving the people a voice in the formulation of its policies and expenditure of funds.
In 1921 the legislature passed a law which was subsequently ratified by the vote of the people of the Port of Portland District vesting the appointment of its personnel to the executive. In 1925 the legislature overruled the will of the people by repealing this law and re-vesting the power of appointment in the legislature.
I recommend that the legislature carry out the will of the people expressed at the polls and re-enact the 1921 port law vesting the appointment of this commission to the executive.
REDUCE MOTOR FATALITIES TO MINIMUM
America pays annually a toll of 31,000 lives and almost a million injuries to traffic accidents, and the economic loss traceable to traffic complications has been estimated at approximately three billion dollars a year.
To this frightful toll the automobile is, by far, the heaviest contributed, this modern juggernaut being responsible for an almost endless list of killed and injured. Much of this in turn is due to unskilled, incompetent and irresponsible drivers.
Since 1916 eleven states have adopted motor vehicle driver’s license laws providing for mental and physical examination for drivers, and adequate penalties for traffic violations.
Since the enactment of this legislation, the reduction in fatalities has ranged from 10% to 36 %, he average reduction over seven of the states being 29%, and it is estimated that it represents a savings of 22,000 lives.
The states having no driver’s license law with examination suffered a total loss of 19,000 motor vehicle fatalities in 1929, and Oregon unhappily was among those states.
I recommend that this legislature enact a drivers’ license law patterned after the Model Drivers’ License Law endorsed by the National Conference on Street and Highway Safety, and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, and the American Bar Association.
CHILD LABOR AMENDMENT
I recommend adoption of the Child Labor Amendment to the federal constitution so that Congress may be authorized to enact legislation protecting and safeguarding childhood in America from exploitation by avarice and greed.
Oregon’s direct primary law, initiative, referendum and recall have been refined in the fires of opposition and have stood the test.
During my term of office I will zealously guard these laws and combat with every means in my power any attempt to infringe, subvert, or wrest them from the people.
STATE BUDGET COMMISSIONER
I am strongly in favor of a budget system as it means intelligent state-wide planning. The head of this department should have the power to establish a uniform system of book-keeping as well as to inquire into the necessary expenses of every agency of the state. He should be vested with power to eliminate waste, extravagance and duplication of expenses. The state budget should be prepared and the executive submit it to the general assembly, not as an estimate of the different state departments, but as their financial requirement reduced t the irreducible minimum.
Two fundamental principles are involved in the preparation of a state budget. The first is that it must be made by the executive. The second is that the budget must be so made as to fix responsibility for increased expenditures so that after the Governor submits it to the legislature the responsibility for any increases, if there be any, is fixed upon that body.
RELATIVES OF WARDS SHOULD AID
Oregon cares for its wards—the insane, feeble minded, morally defective and tubercular patients—by direct appropriations from the legislature.
Other states exact from the relatives of these wards, when they are financially able, a reasonable charge for their maintenance.
California collected from the relatives of its insane more than $500,000 for the year 1929, and the State of Washington approximately $250,000 for the same year. IN the State of New York the paying patients account for 15 % of the commitments to the hospitals for the insane and were the same ratio applied to Oregon at the same rates the returns to the state would be more than $100,000 annually. If a similar charge were imposed for persons committed to the institution for feeble-minded and the boys and girls institutions and the tuberculosis hospitals the annual returns to Oregon would total approximately $200,000.
In view of the fact that it seems to be a general policy for other states to exact a reasonable charge from the relatives, guardians or estates of its wards for their maintenance, and in view of the further fact that this state is now confronted with a deficit and burdened with high taxes, I suggest you consider the advisability of similar legislation in Oregon.
GEORGE WASHINGTON BI-CENTENNIAL
To complete and carry out plans formulated by the Oregon George Washington Bi-centennial Commission for Oregon’s participation in this national celebration an appropriation will be needed.
It is highly desirable that the Oregon Commission be placed in position to cooperate in the national celebration of this historic event.
MERIT TO GOVERN APPOINTMENTS
I reiterate here with emphasis my pre-election pledge to the people: that merit and merit only—the fitness of the individual for the post—will be considered in making such appointments as come within the scope of my office. If efficiency and economy are to rule in state offices, vacancies must be filled as they arise by those most fitted and by the same rule those now in office and not capable of discharging their duties efficiently must yield to those who can and will do so.
PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO KNOW
Further, as we are to be judged by the degree of service we render to the people of Oregon, it is but right that the people should be fully informed as to what we are doing and what we propose to do.
It will be the policy of my administration to examine thoroughly into state departments and institutions with a view of effecting greater economy and efficiency and from time to time the people will be advised as to the progress made.
This policy I commend to the legislature. Deliberations and decisions affecting the welfare of the people should be fully and frankly and speedily made known.
I am of the opinion that all interest on balances of public funds, excluding trust funds, should accrue to the general fund.
I believe further that moneys on deposit to the credit of state institutions, including educational institutions, should be placed in the state treasury in order that they may be fully secured and that they may draw interest for the benefit of the state at large instead of for the particular institution. Audits of several educational institutions show several hundred thousand dollars of such deposits.
Lack of time precludes discussion of legislation needed in connection with the Bancroft Bonding Act, Sinking Funds for Municipalities, Competitive Bidding for Bonds, Unclaimed Bank Deposits, the State Deficit and a number of other matters pertaining to the finances of the State and its political sub-divisions. I will find opportunity to make my recommendations on such matters in special messages more thoroughly covering the subjects.
To more adequately carry out the intent of the Oregon aeronautics law, additional legislation should be enacted giving the Board of Aeronautics authority to appoint and maintain a full time salaried inspector. To defray the additional expense incurred by the creation of this official and in connection with other matters of administration it is recommended by the Oregon General Aeronautic Legislation Committee that the present one cent gasoline tax now paid by aviation be set aside for the use and benefit of the Oregon State Board of Aeronautics in the same manner as the gasoline tax paid by automobile owners is set aside for the benefit of the Oregon State Highway Commission.
STATE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
In land settlement and promotion of Oregon-made products the State Chamber of Commerce has rendered signal service.
Advertising the resources of a state is juts as essential as advertising a business and the State Chamber, in cooperation with local chambers throughout the state, has done a job so outstanding that it has won national recognition.
During the past six years more than 5000 families have made investments exceeding $21,000,000 in 250,000 acres of Oregon land, thus increasing the buying power of our farm population by at least $5,000,000 annually.
The State Chamber not only does valuable advertising for our state, not only points out most effectively the advantages of settlement in Oregon, land of opportunity, but maintains and heightens the good impressions thus created by a series of warm, personal follow-ups that lack nothing of the thoroughness of a highly perfected scientific system. It keeps a complete record of every family thus contacted and, I am informed, is now in correspondence with more than 6,000 additional new families which it has interested in Oregon. These families have expressed themselves as having more than $17,000,000 to invest and a substantial percentage of the number will settle in Oregon as a result of the State Chamber’s activities.
The splendid work of the State Chamber should be continued and should be adequately supported for the valuable service it performs in selling Oregon to the nation.
KEEP OREGON DOLLARS HOME
“What Oregon makes makes Oregon” is an incontrovertible truism.
It is not only good business, but an economical necessity to the upbuilding of a greater state that the citizens of the state support and patronize home industry to the fullest possible extent.
Oregon payrolls make Oregon’s prosperity, increased industry means increased payrolls.
Oregonians should keep these payroll dollars at home.
How many of these dollars leave Oregon annually for other parts never to return, I do not know.
How many of them find their way to Wall Street, I cannot guess, but I am told that not less than 50 million dollars and as high perhaps as 100 million dollars—an incalculably large sum—leaves Oregon annually.
Think of what could be done with that money if it were put to work right here at home.
A large portion of every dollar spent by Oregonians for an Oregon product remains here in Oregon, goes to work for Oregon—helps make a greater Oregon—and eventually gives Oregonians more to spend for their homes, their business, their families and themselves.
We should patronize home industry an encourage new industries to locate in Oregon.
FOREST LAND EXCHANGE PLAN ENDORSED
There is now pending in Congress a bill introduced by Senator McNary, granting certain reserve lands located in National Forests in the State of Oregon to such State for the erection, equipment and maintenance of public buildings.
The purpose of the measure is for the government to convey to the state large areas of forest reserves, proceeds of which shall be used by the State of Oregon for public building purposes. Under the provisions of this measure it would be possible to construct a new capitol for Oregon.
I recommend that the legislature memorialize Congress endorsing this bill.
Before closing I want to pay a tribute to Senator George W. Joseph, the late Republican Party gubernatorial nominee, and my life-long friends and business associate.
It was in these selfsame legislative halls that Senator Joseph for twelve years so earnestly and eloquently pleaded the cause of the people.
It was here that he championed the cause of the direct primary so that the people themselves might nominate candidates for office without dictation from the corporate interests or political bosses.
It was here that he espoused the initiative so that the people might enact their own laws; the referendum so that they might nullify vicious legislation, and the recall so that they might retire unfaithful officials from office.
It was here that he presented his legislation recommending adoption of the equal suffrage constitutional amendment so that the women of Oregon might enjoy the sacred right of the franchise on equality with the men.
It was here that he presented again and again his constitutional amendment for the preservation and development of Oregon’s water power resources for the benefit of the people, only to have it stifled and throttled by the power monopoly which for years has dominated and controlled state political affairs.
It was in this selfsame legislative chamber, in which I am now addressing you, that he was arraigned and tried for exercising the constitutional right of free speech, in criticizing certain decisions of our highest judicial tribunal—a proceeding which resulted in his disbarment and which will go down in history as a disgrace to the judiciary, and a stain upon the fair name of Oregon.
It was on this free speech principle and his water power policies that Senator Joseph appealed his cause to the court of last resort—the great American people, for vindication, and they promptly vindicated him.
It was on these same sacred principles that I carried on as an Independent candidate for the Governorship of the State of Oregon, and I construe my election to this high office by such an avalanche of votes as absolute vindication of the cause for which Senator Joseph so valiantly fought and sacrificed his life, and as an absolute mandate from the people of the State of Oregon to this Legislative Assembly to write these principles and policies into the fundamental law of the state.
In conclusion I want to make the observation that a state should be as great as its natural resources
Measured by this standard Oregon should be one of the greatest and most prosperous states in the Union for Oregon has tremendous resources.
It is rich in agriculture, timber, mineral, fish, game, scenery and water power.
But, with exception of our water power, all these resources are exhaustible and must be protected and fostered.
Our water power, alone, is perpetual, and Oregon possesses an inexhaustible supply.
Water power is the magic key to industry and with our water power developed cheaply and in abundance Oregon’s future greatness and prosperity is assured.
With our water power so developed every Oregon home—city and rural alike—would be electrically lighted and heated, and the wheels of Oregon industry electrically driven.
With our water power so developed Oregon’s manufacturing plants would be able to compete with the commerce of the world and new plants from all quarters would seek location within the state’s borders.
With our water power so developed Oregon’s agricultural, livestock and dairying products could be produced at a minimum of cost and would invade the markets of every clime.
With our water power so developed Oregon’s arid lands would be transformed into fields of golden grain and blossoming orchards.
With our water power so developed Oregon’s transportation system would be electrified and operated at a minimum of cost and maximum of efficiency.
With our water power so developed Oregon’s cities and towns would become flourishing industrial centers.
With our water power so developed Oregon would progress, expand and keep pace with the industrial march of the nations.
Let us dedicate ourselves to the preservation of this rich natural heritage and to its development for the benefit of the State of Oregon and its people.
Let us dedicate our work not only during this legislative session but at all times as representatives of the public to Oregon, Its People, Their Welfare and Prosperity.
I thank you.
Julius L. Meier,