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Legislative Report by Rep. Phil Barnhart
The last few weeks here at the Capitol have been emotionally draining on all of us. Everyday we hear from responsible and hardworking people whose families face losing their homes after months of being unable to find work. Stories like these keep me awake at night. We have a plan to save jobs, help the needy, and also leave Oregon better off for the future. Unfortunately, the challenges and choices we face are extremely difficult and some will be heartbreaking.
Citizens across our district have written asking us not to cut health and senior services, education, or public safety and I share in their desire. Shrinking these programs is not what we want to do. However, these three areas account for 95% of the state's budget and for the '09-'11 budget we are looking at a 12% shortfall. This means we can either raise revenue or be forced to make cuts to these vital programs. The '07-'09 budget which ends in June is in even worse shape because there is no way to make up the shortfall.
The legislature is not immune; we are cutting over $4 million out of the '07-'09 budget for the Legislative Assembly. In addition, we have rejected a pay raise for legislators recommended by a citizen panel a few months ago. Legislators' monthly salary will remain $1,801. This may only be the first step.
As statewide unemployment rates skyrocket to 9% and beyond, we must act swiftly. We already passed SB 5562 and SB 338, a $175 million stimulus package that targets the workers in the building and construction trades who were first to lose their jobs in this recession. Bonding to fund deferred maintenance projects was the obvious choice for a direct infusion of funds because these projects are shovel ready and can create jobs in all 36 counties across the state right now. Does enacting this bill mean that we are done working to keep human and public safety services, and schools days? Certainly not, our work has only just begun. This stimulus package will put thousands of Oregonians back to work now.
We selected projects that increase energy efficiency, create a long term benefit to the public, and save money in more costly repairs in the future. Lane and Linn Counties will receive $15.2 million, to fund projects at Lane and Linn-Benton Community Colleges, University of Oregon, the Oregon Youth Authority, and Oregon Departments of Transportation, Fish and Wildlife, and Forestry. After years of neglect, these are worthwhile capital construction projects that save us money and even more expensive repairs down the road.
This is just one step on the long journey we will travel over the coming months and years to rebuild our economy.
With the revenue forecast we just received today the journey just got a little longer.