Introducing an Honorary Page
to the House Floor
Tomorrow, April 25th, kicks off a series of Town Hall meetings I am hosting with other State Legislators over the next month. The first one is in Brownsville, and the others will be held in Creswell, Eugene, and Coburg. The left-hand column of this email has the full details for each of these events. We hold these meeting to discuss the issues that are important to you and in these tough economic times your input is even more crucial. In addition to the meetings I am hosting, the Joint Committee on Ways and Means is also having a public hearing in Eugene next week on May 1st. The purpose of this gathering is to allow more people to be involved in the budget process and to allow you to tell your story about how cuts to programs will affect you.
Upcoming Town Hall Meetings:
April 25th at 11:30am with Senator Morrisette. Kirk Room at Brownsville Public Library, 146 Spaulding Way, Brownsville, OR.
May 2nd at 11:30am Creswell Community Center, 99 South 1st, Creswell, OR.
May 16th at 10am Joint Town Hall with Lane County Legislators to discuss the latest Revenue Forecast released the day before. City Council Chambers, Eugene City Hall, 777 Pearl St.#105, Eugene.
May 23rd at 11:30am Coburg City Hall, 91069 N Willamette, Coburg, OR.
Eugene Public Hearing on the State Budget:
May 1st from 1:00 to 3:30pm University of Oregon, Lillis Hall, Room 182, 955 East 13th Avenue, Eugene, OR.
April 29 at 5pm
Attention entrepreneurs and those seeking venture capitol in the next two years! State Treasurer Ben Westlund is hosting a "Big Idea Bash." Meet decision makers in a "speed pitching" format to foster quick discussions about investment proposals. If you can get to Portland April 29th at 5pm check it out. For more information and to RSVP visit: www.ost.state.or.us.
I want to share with you a silver lining in the otherwise dark cloud of our economic crisis. The unemployment rate in Oregon continues to rise, reaching 10.8 percent by the beginning of March. The number of unemployment claims and the general strain on government services has gone up drastically. But, unlike many other states, Oregon's Unemployment Insurance system is doing well. According to the National Employment Law Project, Oregon has almost two-and-a-half years of funds in reserve. As of December 2008, only Louisiana had more funds in its Unemployment Trust Fund. Oregon is better off because of a very astute move by the legislature a number of years ago. They created a formula for filling the Unemployment Trust Fund that adjusts automatically, raising and lowering tax rates for employers, depending on whether the Trust has sufficient funds. Oregon has seemingly found the sweet spot where we have enough in the Trust to continue providing benefits during recession, but not so much that it means we have been overtaxing employers.
Other states, like New York and Michigan, are in trouble. New York has been forced to borrow over $350 million and Michigan has borrowed over $1 billion from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits. They will be paying these loans for years to come. Even though Oregon is paying out close to $40 million a month for unemployment, we are prepared to handle the additional burden. Some states even have to discuss restrictions or reductions to unemployment benefits; Oregon does not. In fact, we are discussing expanding unemployment insurance benefits with Senate Bill 462. If passed, Senate Bill 462 would allow 5,600 more Oregonians to qualify for benefits and the state would become eligible for $91 million in federal stimulus funds. Unemployment benefits are a significant economic stimulus tool for the state. The reductions in benefits that other states are discussing would only deepen the already severe recession. But most important, these benefits help families get through the often frightening time until the families' unemployed bread winners can find other jobs. The Employment Department forecasts that the number of new unemployment claims being filed will reach its peak in Oregon around the end of this year. The legislature will be working to find ways to create good new jobs, but at least the unemployment benefits system is able to help bridge the gap between now and then.
The increased workload has pushed the Employment Department to move quickly. The Department has hired additional staff and stayed open longer hours to make sure people's needs are met. But as many people filing unemployment claims for the first time have discovered, the process can be confusing and difficult. My staff and I have had great success getting constituents in touch with the right people at the Employment Department and getting questions answered in a timely manner. The Employment Department is doing a good job managing the increased workload, but it never hurts to call my office if you would like your case re-examined. My staff and I are here to help.