May 29, 2007

Contact: Rebekah Orr, 503-986-1904

Democrats Deliver One Hundred New State Troopers to Oregon Highways

Oregon State Police Budget Bill Clears House With Broad Bi-Partisan Support

SALEM—After sixteen years devastating budget cuts, Oregon State Police will finally get to add 100 more troopers to Oregon's highways following the approval of the Oregon State Police Budget on the House floor today.

"House Democrats made a promise to deliver one hundred new state troopers to Oregon highways this session," said House Majority Leader Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County). "And today we did what House Republican leadership refused to do during their sixteen years in leadership and finally reinvest in our state police and the safety of our communities."

Democrats say the reinvestment in State Patrol Officers is critical because the force has been slashed from 480 officers in 1991 down to 287 in 2005. The result, say Democrats, has been the elimination of 24/7 patrols, an increase in traffic fatalities, unchecked meth trafficking and backlogs in work at the state crime lab. The effect has been particularly felt in rural parts of the state.

"In rural Lincoln County, over half of residents live in unincorporated areas outside the jurisdiction of city law enforcement," said State Representative Jean Cowan (D-Newport). " As numbers on the force have declined, response times have gone up considerably. Imagine the time it can take one state police officer on patrol to travel from one end of Lincoln County to the other for an emergency call and you begin to see the magnitude of the problem we have been facing."

Today's vote came after a procedural motion made by Republicans to add additional unfunded troopers to the budget bill and hours of Republican claims that the budget was inadequate.

Democrats dismissed complaints by House Republicans that the budget didn't go far enough.

"The politicians who are now questioning House Democrats' commitment to police funding are the same Republicans who slashed the number of state troopers in half over the last sixteen years," said Hunt. "This bill is a huge reinvestment that begins to repair the damage done to public safety, health care and education under Republican control."

Democrats also said today's vote was simply the first step in a longer-term effort to fully fund state police.

State Representative David Edwards (D-Hillsboro) told the chamber, "The establishment of a Rainy Day Fund earlier this session will help ensure that this reinvestment is protected in the next economic downturn. But we must continue to work to identify and pass a truly dedicated funding source for state police and to return the force to a level that allows for 24/7 patrols. I'll be part of that solution and I hope you will too."

 "Adding one hundred more state troopers will help to step the flow of meth into the state from super labs outside Oregon, crack down on drunk driving and traffic fatalities on Oregon highways, aggressively pursue sophisticated identity theft rings and go after sexual predators," said State Representative Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene), who made the Democrats' case for the bill on the House floor. "With today's vote we have embarked on a period of reinvestment in one of Oregon's most important priorities—the safety and security of our families and communities."