Governor Ben W. Olcott's Administration
Governor's Special Session Message, 1921
Source: Message of Ben W. Olcott Governor of Oregon To the Special Session of the Oregon Legislature Convened December 19, 1921
Members of the Oregon Legislature:
The legislature has been called into special session to consider matters which I deem of such serious urgency and importance as to warrant your most careful and undivided attention. I will endeavor to outline them briefly for your consideration so I may cause you no unnecessary delay in turning to active work
As you know, the people of Portland, representing one-third of the population and taxable wealth of the state, voted by an overwhelming majority to tax themselves in the sum of $2,000,000 for the purpose of assisting in financing an international exposition to be held in Oregon in 1925. As I understand it, it is the desire of those interested that an additional $4,000,000 be raised for this purpose, of which $1,000,000 is to be raised by private subscription and the balance by a tax against the people of the state at large, including Multnomah county.
It is necessary to submit a question involving such an amount of revenue to the people, for them to determine by their ballots whether they desire to share in bearing the burden of financing such an exposition through revenue derived from taxation. The question of such submission to the people is to come before you. I presume, in submitting such matters to a special election, that the time of the election would be made coincident with the general primary nominating election on May 19, 1922. By so doing the great burden of expense would be eliminated through the use of the primary election machinery in connection with such special election.
I turn to a matter I deem of paramount importance to the welfare of the state. That is the necessity for additional legislation to preserve our highways from destruction. The weight of loads and speed of motor trucks have been giving gravest concern to every person who has been interested in the highway situation. Not alone is this a matter of gravity as it affects our hard-surface highways, important as it may be in that connection. But throughout the state lighter types of surfaces, such as macadam and gravel, are being damaged almost irreparably by heavy motor trucks passing over them. Frequently these lighter surfaces are constructed by small road districts which expend the limit, or near the limit, of their taxing power to construct lateral and market roads and occasionally they see such roads wrecked by no more than one or two trucks. I may add that in my mind these lateral and market roads are of most vital importance—the very arteries that carry the life’s blood to our state.
I respectfully call your attention that the saving of one mile of highway would more than cover the expense of this session of the legislature. We are spending millions for roads. We must take proper precautions to protect them from early destruction. To have awaited another regular session before considering this matter might have meant many hundred of thousands of dollars in destruction otherwise preventable.
Involved in the problems confronting us is the matter of restricting weights and speeds of trucks without ruthlessly interfering with or destroying agricultural and industrial enterprise.
Primarily the roads are made for handling the products of our people. Essentially and fundamentally these are the farmers’ roads, over which they take their produce to the market centers. We never should lose sight of that fact. The roads are built for such men as the farmer, particularly the market roads, and his interests must be subserved. Any legislation enacted should take into full account this fact. I believe legislation may be evolved which will protect his interests as well as the roads.
Further, in connection with out highway system, I submit to you the necessity for proper regulation covering passenger busses and other motor vehicles operating for hire on our public highways. These vehicles have free use of the expensive roadways which are being constructed in all parts of the state. It is right and just not only that they be subjected to proper regulation, but that they pay a just and fair share of the revenue required to maintain such roads.
I have touched but briefly upon the two important matters dealing with highway legislation. Immediately upon issuing the call for this special session I asked five prominent citizens, three of them state officials, to gather such data as they deemed necessary to assist the legislature in expediting its labors at this session. I understand these data are ready for submission to you. My object in asking these men for their valuable assistance was merely to go to the same sources of information it would be necessary for you to seek in securing light on these important subjects and to whip this information into such shape as might materially assist you and lighten, as well as shorten, your labors.
I leave these problems with you for your consideration. The proposed highway legislation alone I consider of such magnitude as to well warrant your attendance here in special session. Properly enacted statutes of this character might well mean the saving of millions of dollars to the state.
In closing I desire to say I have the fullest faith that the patriotism and ability of this body of representatives of the people will result in as speedy a dispatch of business as is consistent with properly considered legislation. I desire to thank you for your prompt response to the call of the executive department and to assure you I am confident the earnestness and careful though I feel you will give to the matters before you will return highly beneficial results to the people of the state.
Salem, Oregon, December 19, 1921