Please Join Us for a Community Forum on Senior and Disabled Services
When: Saturday, March 7 from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm
Where: Campbell Senior Center (155 High Street, Eugene)

If you cannot attend, I value your opinion and would still appreciate your input. Please help me by taking my survey. Click here.


Legislative Report by Rep. Phil Barnhart

Friday, February 20th was a somber day as Oregon State Economist, Tom Potiowsky, confirmed our fears. The state faces an $855 million shortfall for the rest of the 2007-2009 budget and a $3.3 billion shortfall for the next biennium. His message was clear: tough times are ahead and we may not rebound anytime soon.

On Saturday February 21st, 125 people attended a Town Hall meeting in Springfield I co-hosted with Senators Morrisette, Prozanski, and Walker and Representatives Beyer and Holvey to discuss the budget crisis and  its  effect  on crucial services. Budget and revenue experts from Salem outlined the magnitude of the crisis, but the majority of the time was devoted to listening to citizens' concerns and answering their questions.

Despite differences of opinion, it was clear how much everyone at the meeting cared about Oregon. I think we need to remember that as we move forward. The questions and comments demonstrated the wide ranging effects of the economic decline and the difficult decisions we all face in the coming months. To have so many people participate shows how concerned many citizens are about the basic services Oregon taxpayers pay to provide.

One of the first questions regarded the status of the federal stimulus. Here's what we know so far: According to Ken Rocco, Legislative Fiscal Officer, Oregon will receive approximately $1.3 billion in federal relief. Only $500 million of that can be used for this biennium and it is unclear how much can be put towards closing the $855 million gap for 2007-2009. We also have two small reserve accounts that will help some. Paul Warner, Legislative Revenue Officer, said the package will also include tax relief for most Oregonians.

The diverse crowd included local high school students asking how cuts would affect their school year and their ability to pay for college or get a job. Advocates for K-12 and higher education, substance abuse treatment, affordable housing, and other programs came to passionately state their case for funding to help them continue serving our most vulnerable. Small business owners recommended reaching out to the local business community to let them know how they can help to increase state revenue to help stabilize the state's economy.  

In 2002, as during other recessions, we had the same problem we have now. The volatility of our revenue system leaves us with a budget shortfall and difficulty funding vital programs. As one questioner noted, this will continue unless we work to stabilize the budget. I served on the bipartisan Revenue Restructuring Task Force and as a result, we are discussing an amendment to create a constitutional Rainy Day Fund. It will be filled with unbudgeted corporate revenue and a portion of unbudgeted revenue from personal income taxes. We must be prudent during good times. If we had been able to save in previous years, the crisis we are facing now would be much less severe.

We face difficult decisions and need your support and input as we work to resolve this crisis. As the recession deepens, more people will need assistance. If you need help finding assistance, please contact my office by calling 503-986-1411 or email me at rep.philbarnhart@state.or.us. We are in this together, so let's work together to pull ourselves out of this crisis.