Nancy enjoys a final moment on Sine
Die with her neighbor on the House floor, Rep. David Edwards.
At the Capitol
In the District
Friends and Neighbors,
past six months spent in Salem, in the 75th Legislative Assembly, was both more and less than I expected. More progress on local and state issues, and
less teeth-gnashing turmoil. We went into the Capitol with a very dark cloud overhead: a dire budget forecast, the economy spiraling down, and
everyone feeling anxious. We were serious about dealing with the problems, and still mustered hope, even optimism, for some positive outcomes. In the
House chamber, parliamentary maneuvers were kept to a minimum, allowing efficient use of time. In committee meetings, I enjoyed co-chairing an
inquisitive and probing budget committee comprised of five Democrats and three Republicans, including my co-chair Sen. Jackie
pleased about legislation I passed in several areas to maximize help for people while breaking down bureaucratic barriers. I repeated those efforts in
reviewing department budgets and proposals for new projects. I looked for, and found -- or insisted on -- collaboration and cost-effectiveness. I
can't tell you how many times I spoke out urging more of both. Other successful work is aimed at bringing down the cost of health insurance, helping
veterans, promoting clean electric vehicles and green jobs, curbing metal theft, and protecting affordable housing.
No effort is without some opposition, and no legislation is perfect. I feel we did a good job of balancing a budget in an
extremely difficult environment. We adopted a small tax increase for top income-earners (no increase for incomes up to a quarter million dollars, then
a small increase for earnings over that amount) and a new corporate rate (minimum amount went from $10 to $150, and an increase on net profits over
$250,000). We are using every federal dollar we can find and qualify for. Still, we needed to make cuts in programs that reach every corner of the
state, affect the young and old, working and not-working people and students. There were several low periods, like when I carried budget bills that
cut funding and announced the number of jobs that would be lost. There were dramatic moments, like waiting for the last vote to come in on the field
burning bill. And there were high points, including opening the final list of capital projects and finding important projects I promoted, including
LCC's downtown building, infrastructure for cities, university building rehab, LTD's EmX route, and courthouse safety improvements.
I'm back in
Eugene now, but a legislator's work continues until next session: committee work, correspondence with state agencies, questions and issues from
constituents. As always, I will stay in touch through informal gatherings such as Saturday coffees, and occasional email messages.
Nancy engages some of Oregon's brightest from the Oregon Youth Challenge Program.
Oregon Budget FAQ
Throughout this past legislative session many questions came up related to Oregon’s budget and the process the
legislature uses in order to balance the budget. Several people have written that the state has a lot of money in reserves or ending fund balances,
and there is plenty of money to use without having to cut budgets. It is true that some state agencies have ending fund balances and reserves, but
these serve several very important purposes.
One of the most important is for cash flow, since revenue does not come in evenly every month throughout the two-year
period (the legislature has limited agencies to just two or three months of operating expenses). Another important purpose is to hold money in reserve
for specific purposes such as revolving loan funds for helping small business and veterans, money deposited for investment and
“banking”, and to run the group insurance plans available for schools, business, and families. We did have a choice, and we chose not to
shut down key programs like higher education, business development, and other agencies that require those reserves to keep running.
have heard from a number of people wanting to know why it's fair to increase some budgets when others are being cut. There are a
number of budgets that show increases due to the influx of federal funds coming to Oregon as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed
by Congress in February. Here are several examples: $348.5 million for transportation projects; $40 million for the Department of Justice, including
$1 million for the Internet Crimes Against Children Program; and $44.7 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs.
Comparing budgets can be tricky. The comparison may be to the 2007-09 approved budget, or to the Governor’s
recommended budget, or to the “Essential Budget Level” (to maintain services at the current level, just taking into account inflation,
population growth, and other factors). It’s possible that a “cut” may be an “increase” – sound odd?
Here’s how: the Governor’s budget was prepared starting in spring and summer 2008, well before we knew how harsh the recession would be.
It included the funds needed to maintain current services, plus some recommended increases or new programs. As we’re working with a very
different economy now, we have made drastic changes, not accepting most of the suggested increases and reducing services. It’s possible that
it’s less than what the Governor recommended, yet still more than last year. Some people refer to it as an increase, while others describe it
as a cut.
To learn more about Oregon’s budgeting process, click here.
Nancy prepares to test drive a next generation electric vehicle manufactured in
2009 Legislative Accomplishments
Even among the difficult budget situation, I was able to introduce and pass six bills that will protect our working
families, veterans, and residents of mobile home parks; promote accountability and government efficiency; and work toward reducing the escalating
costs of healthcare. Two of my bills passed unanimously in the House and several received bipartisan support from both the House and the Senate.
In the final hours of the 2009 legislative session, the legislature passed several bills that
authorized bonding for a number of projects throughout the state, and several are projects I helped advocate for our area including LCC downtown,
LTD’s EmX, and UO. These bonds will help preserve affordable housing and manufactured home parks, perform much-needed construction and
maintenance for community colleges and universities, and begin development of an integrated water resources strategy. This stimulus
package will create or sustain more than 12,000 direct jobs.
Additionally, the legislature passed a bill to restore funding for various programs throughout the state, including the
State Homeless Assistance Program, Department of Veterans’ Affairs for war veterans service organizations, and Department of Education to make
breakfast accessible at no charge to students who qualify for reduced priced lunches.
Throughout this legislative session I supported many bills to help children, seniors, consumers, and veterans; promote
accountability and more efficiency; and other ways we were able to make progress even in the face of Oregon’s budget problems.
Click here for a
summary of some of our achievements, and click here for a summary of my bills that passed the House and Senate.
Nancy chats about safety with kids at Eugene's annual Family Fun & Safety Fest.
Creating jobs and achieving energy efficiency
Lane County will be seeing more stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
passed by Congress in February. The U.S. Department of Energy recently distributed $15.4 million to Oregon for weatherizing low income homes. Lane
County is expected to receive a little over $3 million. The funding will save low-income families money by making their homes more energy efficient,
and reducing energy bills by hundreds of dollars per year. This will also create 85 jobs in Lane County and over 1,000 statewide.
If you are interested in the weatherization program in Lane County you can contact Marybeth Andrews at the Housing and
Community Services Agency,541-682-2507. You can also find information at the HACSA website.
Keeping your lawn green and reducing your water usage
During the summer it is common for a household’s water usage to triple as we turn our attention to our lawns and
gardens. For the fourth straight year, the Eugene Water & Electric Board is paying the cost of water gauges for everybody. When a homeowner turns on
the sprinkler, the gauge will measure how much water is being used. EWEB offers weekly water advice based on the weather. You can visit their website
and sign up to receive a weekly notice. This program can help you save money on your water bill.Reducing water use also means lower infrastructure
costs for the utility – which will also save money for customers. EWEB gives away about 10,000 gauges each year. You can get one for your home
at any local home and garden stores.
FYI: Summer road
Whether traveling around Eugene or statewide, you
will certainly notice an increase in road construction. This summer is expected to be the busiest road construction season in recent history, with 140
work zones from Oregon Department of Transportation projects alone. Around Eugene you can expect delays on Beltline Highway as they rebuild the
freeway ramp at Coburg Road interchange, install lights, and work on traffic signals. If you are planning a trip this summer, you can check
ODOT’s TripCheck website and the 511
travel information hotline. They will provide updated, detailed information about construction projects, including anticipated delay times.
Now that I’m back in the district,
it’s time for us to get together for more information and conversation at Saturday “coffees”.I’m also planning a Joint
Town Hall with Sen. Vicki Walker and Rep. Chris Edwards in early August. Stay tuned.
Click here to access my legislative website.