June 5, 2009

 

 

Eugene Town Hall on the Revenue and Budget Crisis.  Six other Lane and Linn County Legislators joined me to answer citizen's questions.

Greetings,

Hundreds of citizens in District 11 and across the state have written to my office asking legislators to support shared responsibility in dealing with our current budget crisis. Budget cuts are inevitable during these challenging economic times, but we may be able to stave off the worst of these cuts by making our tax system more fair and equitable.  I thank you for your support in this process.  Corporations greatly benefit from public services. Schools provide an educated workforce.  Public safety officers, firemen and women protect business facilities.  Courts uphold laws providing stability and security for future business and investments. Funding for transportation services such as roads, bridges, lights, ports, and even buses and trains make sure goods and workers can get from Point A to Point B.  Currently Oregon families bear 94% of the burden for these services and corporations only pay 6%.  In addition 60% of large corporations in Oregon pay the $10 minimum, which has not been changed since 1931.  We are working on these issues and again I appreciate your support.

Phil

Important Dates

June 30th-Last day of session.  We may end earlier, but going past this deadline is unlikely as it would require two-thirds of the members on both the House and Senate to suspend the rules to extend the session.

Legislative Report

The last couple of weeks have produced some good news and some bad news for Oregon's economy and budget. Many of you already know the bad news: we face a $4.2 billion budget shortfall or roughly one-quarter of the state's biennial budget. The good news is that it's less than we thought it would be and when we're talking about cutting jobs and services for thousands of Oregonians, every little bit counts. For the long term, the revenue forecast revealed a desperate need for better budgeting tools to compensate for the volatility of our revenue system. In the short term, the shortfall will require a shared mix of budget cuts and revenue raising measures to balance the budget.

In the Revenue Committee, State Economist Tom Potiowsky summarized the economic picture and the revenue forecast.  Oregon's unemployment rate stayed at 12% for April.  While Oregon's rate did not get worse we are still second highest in the nation.  There are three main reasons for this.  First Oregon's economy much like Michigan's is heavily dependent on the manufacture of durable goods.  Michigan sells cars and Oregon produces electronics and sells timber to build homes.  Purchase of these durable goods can be delayed until times are more stable.  Next, more Oregonians started looking for work.  If the "bread-winner" lost work other family members entered the job market to help support the family.  Lastly, people from other states are migrating to Oregon even if they don't have a job secured.  This suggests that Oregon is still an attractive place to live in spite of our current struggles.  In the short run this in-migration pushes up unemployment rates but in the long run it brings in brain-power and provides a better workforce for employers when the economy does turn around. Using furloughs as a recovery tool, rather than laying people off will also help meet short term budgetary cuts and will allow for quicker ramping up once the recovery starts. 

The state economist reiterated that the state's budget is more volatile because it is heavily funded by income taxes.  When we face recessions and instability in the job market our budget suffers as well, decreasing the state's capacity to help people in need when they need it most.  It is clear now more than ever that our revenue system needs an overhaul.  Better budgeting tools are needed including a robust constitutional Rainy Day Fund to smooth out peaks and valleys.  As we discuss this issue for the future I will also work to make sure that large corporations and the very wealthy, who receive indirect benefits from the services and support the State of Oregon provides, pay their fair share.     

During these final weeks of session as I work with my colleagues to develop the best budget possible under these challenging circumstances, it is important to me to know what people from my district think we should do.  I invite you to stay in close communication with me, now and throughout the rest of the budget process, about the programs and issues important to you.  I will do what I can here in Salem minimize the cuts as they each have real impacts on people and families and to make sure the money remaining is used efficiently and effectively.  Stay tuned!
 
You can see the complete Co-Chairs' budget proposal by going to this website:  http://tinyurl.com/qn7sfy

SENATE BILL 102

Here is a video of my Floor Speech for Senate Bill 102-which reduces global warming pollution from woodstoves and solid fuel burning devices.  Citizens who currently use wood stoves can continue to use them.  The stoves would only need to be upgraded or removed at the time of sale.  In the video below Representative Cannon will introduce the bill then I give my speech. Click the picture below to watch! (The video will open up in a new window).

Bills of Interest

HB2004-My constituents Jake, Nick, and Zach Klonoski championed this bill which reinstates the "dollar check-off", a provision on tax forms that allows for a simple $3 contribution to a political party of your choice.  With bipartisan support the bill passed off the House Floor as a memorial to their father Jim Klonoski. Jim Klonoski helped pass a similar concept in the late 70's, which expired in the early 80's.

HB2001-Jobs and Transportation Bill-next week's Legislative Report will discuss this bill in depth. The bill passed in both the House and the Senate and is awaiting signature from the Governor.

HB2009 & HB2116-Health Care Bills will cover 80,000 children and another 35,000 adults under the Oregon Health Plan, resulting in lower health care costs for Oregonians.  A later report will also discuss this topic in depth.

HB2533-Allows four high schools including Pleasant Hill, which is in our district, to qualify for additional funding, based on their enrollment. 

As usual here are links to the agenda's for my committees and the House Floor so you can check out what bills are coming up for my vote. 

Revenue

Environment & Water -Committee Closed

House Floor (Third Reading Notice)

You can track any measure by number here.