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Representative Phil Barnhart
News from the Oregon State Legislature March 24, 2005

In This Issue:

Legislative Report: Oregon's Veterans

Managing Our Budget: Tax Breaks or Schools?

Barnhart Bills Coming Up for Hearings

Legislative Report: Oregon's Veterans
Pensive Soldier

The 162nd, our Guardsmen based in Cottage Grove, are home! We breathe a collective prayer of thanksgiving for their return. They have served well in their assignments in Iraq, but suffered many casualties. Now, those who return face transition back into a civilian world and often ambiguous futures. In the Veteran's Affairs Committee where I serve as Vice-Chair, we have discussed creative ways to resolve some of these issues.

Guardsmen must support themselves and their families with civilian employment. Many guardsmen have a hard time finding good jobs. The unemployment rate among guardsmen is shockingly high. Part of the problem is that guardsmen must be ready to deploy on short notice. Because National Guardsmen used to be part-time and were only activated in times of national emergency, the Guard was an option for those in various civilian careers. Now, however, guardsmen are sent on lengthy federal deployments which remove them from their jobs and communities. Often, they return when good jobs are hard to find. Yet, the government has almost no network to support them.

Some employers consider guardsmen to be less desirable employees because they might deploy on short notice. Our young guardsmen may now avoid mentioning their service to their state and nation for fear of discrimination.

We must strive to fix our broken system and to provide what many guardsmen need most, a good full- time job. As the Oregon National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd infantry unit came back from Iraq last week, their civilian unemployment rate was a staggering 40 percent. Moreover, guardsmen, in general, face unemployment rates between 10-20 percent.

Oregon can do better. We should begin by easing the burdens of deployments by supporting a Military Family Relief Program that will aid those families in distress because of federal deployments. My bill, HB 2737, will have received a public hearing by the time you read this. We can provide a mentoring program for our returning guardsmen to ease their transition to civilian life, the main purpose for HB 3385, another of my bills. We need to make sure that guardsmen who are employed before they go overseas can maintain their positions, and those who are new to the job market have access to jobs that will take advantage of their skills and pay a living wage.

We need to invest in our educational system to help our military service-members. We should consider setting up a fund that would provide for tuition, fees, room and board for higher education for guardsmen and other soldiers, a new GI Bill of Rights. We should use our investment in schools, healthcare and our state's infrastructure to improve our economy to create more and better jobs for all Oregonians, including our returning guardsmen.

We all agree that we must support our troops. We as individuals can welcome them home and keep an eye and hand out for them. Maybe you know someone who can hire a vet! This legislature, in ways large and small, can make their return to civilian life and work easier and smoother. After all, our soldiers take care of us, now it is our turn to take care of them.


This is the fourth of many e-newsletters that I will be sending out during the 2005 session of the Oregon State Legislature. The purpose of this newsletter is to keep you informed about the progress that the Legislature is making, and about the work that I am doing to represent House District 11 and to support the values that we all hold dear: educating and nurturing our children, supporting our seniors, and protecting our communities.

  • Managing Our Budget: Tax Breaks or Schools?
  • As the Legislature gets into full swing, we find ourselves once again caught up in budget negotiations. Living within our means is necessary; cutting important programs like education and health care is intolerable. Reconciling these two problems sounds difficult, with a $500-million shortfall, but, except for politics, it would be easy.

    In 2003, Oregon cut twice as much state spending as California, even though California has 10 times our population. We have done our share of cutting programs, and now we need to reprioritize our spending, including tax spending. Our tax system, designed with the best of intentions, has many obsolete tax loopholes and giveaways that corporations exploit because that spending, unlike the state budget, is never reviewed.

    Now is the time to put our budgeted spending and tax loopholes into perspective. Thanks to our budget cuts over the years, Oregon crams more kids into a classroom than all but three other states, and more than a third of Oregon's high school students drop out without receiving their diplomas. Thanks to our cuts, scores of working poor have lost their health care, hundreds of police officers have lost their jobs, and innocent people have suffered because the state stopped helping them get their prescription drugs.

    Despite all that, Oregon has actually increased tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthy. Since 1997, tax giveaways have grown roughly twice as fast as state revenues. If the Republican-controlled Legislature had held the line on tax giveaways, our state would now have $1.4 billion more to reduce class sizes, provide a full school year, invest in our universities, and support seniors.

    This is not just rhetoric. Here are some examples of our obese tax giveaway system:

    Oregon provides a tax break for companies who offer subsidized parking for employees. Is it fair to ask public schools to give up new books to pay for company parking?

    Oregon provides a tax break for companies who provide on-premise athletic facilities. Should we not worry more about the seniors who go without prescription medications than about the athletic prowess of corporate executives?

    The Legislature allows the very rich to take unlimited deductions for the interest they pay on loans for their luxury homes. Is this a higher priority than schools, public safety or health coverage for the working poor?

    These tax loopholes trouble me. I believe that we should review them each time we determine our state budget to verify that they achieve their purpose and are priorities. Some tax exemptions work and help support our ideals, like the home mortgage interest deduction which enables countless working families to own homes of their own. House Republicans are unwilling to consider reducing other tax breaks and giveaways in order to prevent cuts to critical services.

    More than half our state budget goes to these tax loopholes; it is time to eliminate those that are ineffective, or are less important than our health, safety, or our kids' education.

  • Barnhart Bills Coming Up for Hearings
  • HB 2909 - Government efficiency bill that will allow Soil & Water Conservation Districts to save money when electing officials
  • HB 2328 - Limits current unreasonable fees on clean-burning propane tanks that make propane unaccessible to consumers
  • HB 3135 - Gives some local control to counties over the siting of energy facilities, requires publishing of an environmental impact statement and a need assessment for new energy facilities
  • HB 2649 - Promotes efficiency in budget summary publishing process by using new technology
  • HB 2943 - Increases caps on toxic "right-to-know" fees to increase fairness for small businesses

  • Phone :: (503) 986-1411

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    Representative Phil Barnhart | 900 Court St. NE | Salem | OR | 97301

    March 24, 2005