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A Look Ahead by Senator Doug Whitsett

Herald and News 12/26/10

     The three legislators representing the   Klamath County areas were asked by the Herald and News to give their views on a series of questions regarding the upcoming 2011 session of the Legislature.

   Today’s answers come from state Sen. Doug Whitsett, who was first   elected in 2004 to represent Senate District 28, which includes Klamath, Lake and Crook counties and portions of Deschutes and Jackson counties.  

   What will your highest priority be for the budget?

   My highest priority is to balance the state budget without raising taxes and fees. We can do this by prioritizing and funding core government roles in public safety, education, and the human services that are critical for the disabled and the elderly. All other government services must be considered discretionary and be subject to reduction, consolidation, or elimination. Further, services that can be found in the yellow pages are commercial services that should be privatized to both reduce costs and increase private sector employment.

   Is there any one function or department that should be spared?

   My highest priority has always been public safety. We must continue to fund the core services of state police, district attorneys, public defense services, the courts and sustainable corrections and addictive treatment activities. The previous Legislative and Governor’s allotment budget reductions have made these agencies leaner and more accountable but they are now near the functional breaking point.  

   Are there any specific programs not protected by the constitution or federal law that should be eliminated and do you believe there is a realistic chance to do so?

   The Departments of Land Conservation Development, Environmental Quality, State Lands, several divisions of Business and Consumer Services, Land Use Board of Appeals, Bureau of Labor and Industries and several others could be grossly reduced or eliminated. The Public Employees Benefit Board, the Oregon Education Benefit Board and the Public Employment Retirement System all need to be restructured and realigned in benefits being provided, how they are financed, and how they are operated.

   Oregon is now facing a very real revenue shortfall, an amount estimated to be 20 percent less than is being spent in the current budgets. Dealing with that budget crisis will drive a unique opportunity for these reductions to occur.  

   How should K-12 school funding be treated?

   Governor–elect Kitzhaber has suggested $5.4 billion in state funding. That will be difficult but arguably doable. Nearly $10,000 per student per year is spent on K-12 education. We must identify and reduce the more than 50 percent of those dollars that are spent but that never reach children in the classrooms. We must create more competitive education opportunities through vouchers, charter schools, virtual schools and other innovative education paradigms that provide chances for both cost reduction and better learning outcomes.

   How do you feel about the proposal by the chancellor of the Oregon University System to alter the system’s structure? How do you see Oregon Institute of Technology fitting in?  

   I strongly support the Chancellor’s proposal. Each university should be managed according to a sustainable business model and be held accountable for fiscal and educational outcomes. OIT is already well on its way to implementing the business plan model envisioned by the chancellor.

   What are your other legislative priorities for the district?

   Nearly three-fourths of Oregon private sector jobs are created and sustained by small and mid-sized businesses. We plan to work closely with the district business community to identify and reduce government barriers to business and job growth.

   We have successfully secured well more than $45 million in state investment in OIT construction during the past five years. In a very difficult fiscal environment, a high priority will be to secure the critically needed bonding for OIT’s Wilsonville campus.  

   • One of the highest priorities of the Oregon Trucking Association is to establish Highway 140 as a freight route. I believe the route is critical to Klamath and Lake County economic development and will continue to secure further investment in that freight route development.  

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