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Time Will Tell How Legislature Impacts Average Oregonian

PRESS RELEASE: Oregon Senator Ted Ferrioli 7/2/07

Coming into the legislative session nearly everyone’s “to do list” included increased funding and financial accountability for Oregon schools, a tougher stance on immigration, state trooper patrols, controlling the rising cost of healthcare, and updating state ethics laws. Along the way several priorities where abandoned and a lot of other agenda items surfaced. With 1,000 pieces of legislation passed in Salem it could be years before most Oregonians feel the full impact of legislator’s work.

“Time will tell to what extent this legislature has impaired or derailed Oregon’s future,” stated Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli. “It could be three, five, or even ten years before Oregonians feel the full affects.”

Education Funding and Accountability

The legislature provided schools their largest budget ever, but did not address increasing accountability for the way much of that money is spent. The non-partisan Chalkboard Project offered several accountability measures, but opposition from teachers unions caused them to die in the Democrat controlled legislature.

Legislators did pass a teacher mentoring plan developed by the non-partisan Chalkboard Project. “I believe mentoring will not only save taxpayer dollars but also put the best teachers possible in to Oregon classrooms,” stated Starr, who was part of a bi-partisan group of legislators working with Chalkboard.

“Schools from Hillsboro to Harney County and Astoria to Ashland will get a record level of funding from the state,” noted Senator Bruce Starr.

Higher education received a significant boost in their budget, including help with tuition costs. “We can have a world class university system in Oregon and this session was a step in the right direction,” said Senator Frank Morse. “These investments will help restore Oregon as a place that students and businesses want to come.”


Many legislators came into session talking tough about requiring proof of citizenship to get a driver’s license or register to vote, but much of the talk proved to be hollow. Democrats in the Senate voted down a referral to Oregon voters asking them to require proof of citizenship for new voters. Republicans also brought a proposal requiring proof of citizenship for individuals applying for driver’s licenses, but Democrats later sent that proposal to a committee to die. “At one time, the Oregon Driver’s License was the ‘gold standard’ for identification, but no more,” said Senator Roger Beyer. “The only way to stop this type of fraud is to make applicants prove a legal presence in Oregon to obtain a driver’s license.”

Pocketbook Issues

Taxpayers’ wallets took a hard hit this session. Legislators introduced over 150 proposals that increased fees or taxes. The Senate even voted to confiscate the balances on gift cards if Oregonians don’t spend them fast enough. “Why don’t they just come into our living rooms and steal the change out from under the cushions too?” asked Senator Jackie Winters.

Tax increase proposals introduced this year included those to: increase taxes on personal income, gas and other fuels, and even businesses that don’t earn a profit. The calls to increase taxes came despite a $2.5 billion increase in state revenue for the current budget cycle. “Taxpayers expected us to come here and show that we could get something done without raising taxes,” stated Senator Jason Atkinson. “Taxpayers will be disappointed to hear that some legislators could not resist trying to get more of what they earn.” Both houses of the legislature gave exclusive rights to organize a large block of contract workers to two unions that are among the largest donors to Democrat campaigns.

Healthcare Costs

Republicans in the Senate introduced several proposals to provide consumers more power and control over cost and choice in health care decision. From allowing Oregonians to tax credits and deductions for medical costs to creating tax free savings accounts for health care costs, they tried to put Oregon families back in the driver’s seat “Health insurance is only a dream for many people because of its cost,” Senator Jeff Kruse stated. “I want to make health care a reality for all Oregonians.”

Ethics Laws

Legislators acted to take funding for the state’s ethics watchdog out of their hands by creating an automatic funding formula for the agency. While Republicans had pushed for a proposal to create a permanent and sustainable endowment fund to provide funding for the agency, they supported the effort. Legislators also increased fines for ethics violations and reduced the value meals, gifts, and travel legislators may receive. “Permanent, stable, and independent funding is precisely what the ethics commission needs,” stated Senator David Nelson. “An independent watchdog is critical to keeping public officials accountable to the ones they serve.”

100 New State Troopers

The state neared 24/7 police coverage on its highways after legislators added new state troopers. While Democrats sought to tie new patrols to tax increases, Republicans said they could pay for troopers within existing tax revenues. In the end, 100 new troopers were funded within existing resources. “Without raising taxes, we have made sure no one will find themselves on a dark highway without help nearby,” said Senator Doug Whitsett. “Public safety is and ought to be state government’s first priority. For too long it has been under funded, and today we are starting to change that.”

Will of the Voters

The legislature is sent to Salem to do the will of voters, but this legislature came to Salem to question the will of voters. Time and again Governor Kulongoski and legislative leadership worked to undermine what voters have clearly said at the ballot box. This session saw efforts to repeal the property rights in Measure 37, end the double majority requirement for tax measures, and remove the kicker from the Constitution.

“It has been over two and a half years since Oregonians overwhelming adopted ballot measure 37,” noted Senator Gary George. “And the Governor and Democrats still are taking a partisan stance of wanting to repeal it, add pages and pages of bureaucracy, or take way the rights it gave to property owners.”

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              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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