By Representative David Gomberg, District 10 House
Dear friends and neighbors,
June brings us closer to the end of the legislative session. The constitution requires that we complete the budget and all outstanding business by midnight, June 27. Bills that were not passed by both houses when we adjourn will die.
By January, nearly 4,000 measures had been introduced. I expect that when we are done, less than 600 will become law. This is not an unusual figure. All of these proposals were a good idea for someone. But that doesn’t mean most of them are a good idea for Oregon. Less than a third even benefited from a public hearing.
I also want to tell you that about 80% of Eighty percent of the bills we passed received unanimous support. About 90% had bipartisan support, meaning members of both parties voted for them. Less than 10% of the time, a decision ended in partisan failure. This is news that we rarely hear.
About 150 of the bills we hear relate to the state budget.
As vice-chair of the full Ways and Means committee and co-chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development, this is the time of the session when our work really accelerates. We have been developing budgets for months, and now we are finalizing decisions and submitting them to votes in committee and in the floor. Agencies for which my committee is responsible include Department of Transportation (ODOT), Employment Division, Business Oregon (OBDD), Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), Veterans Affairs, Real Estate Agency, Housing and Community Services, Consumer and Business Services (DCBS), and the Alcohol and Cannabis Commission (OLCC).
We are also working on investments in local infrastructure. This includes the disbursement of funds received from the federal government under the America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and also dollars from the sale of lottery bonds. Two years ago, we received approval for the Newport Dams, the Lincoln City Cultural Center, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. But when lottery ticket sales declined, the bond sale was canceled for the first time in our lottery history. It was a disappointing setback. I am determined to see these projects re-funded along with a myriad of regional water, sewage, port, school buildings, broadband and security programs.
Nothing is certain until it is final. The capital construction projects will be on the very last bill we approve before we adjourn.
At Thursday I chaired the afternoon session in the House while we have passed nearly 20 bills.
At Thursday, I voted to pass Senate Bill 5514 A, which sets the two-year budget for our public schools at a record $ 9.3 billion. This is the biggest budget K-12 in Oregon history. These funds will be combined with nearly $ 4.6 billion in property taxes and other local revenues to be distributed according to the school revenues formula.
This record level of investment will give students across the state the tools and resources they need to be successful.
- Passing This $ 9.3 Billion State School Fund Budget Will Help Oregon’s Nearly 200 School Districts Move Forward With Plans To Support Students, Families And Teachers After One Year during which COVID-19 and wildfires have exacerbated education disparities.
- Overall, this represents a 3.3% increase over the 2019-21 Public School Fund.
- Our guiding principle in developing Oregon’s education budget is to ensure that students have the support they need to be successful, including social, emotional and mental health support.
The historic $ 9.3 billion K-12 budget, in addition to several other funding sources, including an influx of federal funds from the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, will help ensure that we are meeting the needs of our children.
- As I mentioned earlier, this $ 9.3 billion will be combined with almost $ 4.6 billion in property taxes and other local revenues to be allocated according to the school income formula.
- In addition, the Legislature passed $ 250 million for summer learning, enrichment and child care programs. This funding will allow many students to catch up and prepare for the next school year and support families who have helped the children through a year of distance learning.
- Schools will also continue to receive funding from the landmark Student Success Act, which Oregon passed in 2019 to sustainably fund our education system with an additional $ 1 billion per year. The Student Success Act expands access to preschool education, adds mental health resources for students, funds culturally appropriate programs, and restores art, music, physical education, and vocational training.
- The budget also funds the provisions of Measure 98, which voters passed to fund additional vocational, technical and vocational training in schools.
The Oregon Constitution requires that our budget be balanced. We cannot spend more than what we collect. This requires a careful balance of needs and priorities. This school budget will stabilize education and also ensure that we can fund health care, forest firefighting, transportation, support for small businesses and other pressing concerns as we recover from one. the most difficult economic recessions of our lives; and a global pandemic.
SB 5514 A, which passed 36-20, was approved by the Senate last week and is now heading to the governor’s office.
On the COVID front, we are now on track to fully reopen Oregon on June 21st. The governor provided an update on COVID during her press briefing on Friday. A major theme of the briefing was that Oregon is now experiencing two radically different pandemics: one for the vaccinated (an overall positive story) and one for the unvaccinated (a story of continued risk).
A vivid example was presented by a pulmonologist in Bend, where of the 98 COVID deaths they have experienced, all but one were unvaccinated. You can watch the briefing here (from 33’32 “), find the slides here and read the press conference talking points here.
Here are some highlights:
- We have 127,000 left to reach the 70% threshold that will allow us to fully reopen the state.
- Modeling suggests that we will reach this threshold by June 21stst.
- “Full reopening” means that there are no more capacity limits. Masks will no longer be required by the state except for places still limited by the federal government: airports, public transport and medical establishments.
- The more people in Oregon are vaccinated, the safer it will be for those who CANNOT receive the vaccine or for whom it is not fully effective: people with cancer, those who are immunocompromised, and children.
- Almost all Oregonians who enter the hospital are not vaccinated. The patients are younger because more older Oregonians have been vaccinated.
- Counties with vaccination rates below the median have COVID rates above the median.
- We are 18 years olde in the nation for states whose populations have received at least one dose. We are in the top ten states for immunizing 12-15 year olds.
- People of color continue to be vaccinated at higher rates than white Oregonians.
- Pharmacies are starting to give vaccinations in the evening in order to be available for “inconvenient vaccines”.
- The vaccine may be slightly less effective with the COVID variants, but it appears to be just as effective in preventing the severe effects of the disease.
If you are fully immunized, you can start to put the pandemic behind you. You won’t have to quarantine yourself even if you come into contact with someone with COVID. At the bottom of this weekly report, I’ve provided some charts on our progress.
For the next few weeks, I will continue to work long days in Salem.
Over the weekend, I recorded a radio interview that will be broadcast on the Yaquina network Tuesday Morning. Saturday Susie and I stopped by the Newport Farmer’s Market, went to a business in Waldport, enjoyed Saturday afternoon at Art, Oysters and Brews in Toledo, and end the day by dining with good friends. I took some time Sunday to compose my opening remarks for the Tillamook Bay Community College graduation ceremony.
It felt good to go out in the sun and see people smiling. I hope your weekend has been just as productive.
Thanks as always for reading.
Tillamook County is currently at around 63% and the state at around 68% – closing in on 70% and fully reopening.