Oregon Legislative Session: New Faces, Growing Budgetary Needs

Gov. Kate Brown during yesterday’s swearing-in. (Photo: KOIN 6)

The 79th Legislative Session of the Oregon Legislature got underway with the swearing-in of legislators and Governor Kate Brown, who was elected to her first full term in November.

Both chambers feature plenty of new faces taking on what is expected to be one of the most difficult budgetary years since the Great Recession, with more than one-fifth taking the oath as freshman legislators.

The state has a projected revenue shortfall of $1.7 billion, driven by mounting caseloads at the Department of Human Services, and steep spikes in public pension costs as well as the state’s share of health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.  It is also expected the Legislature will spend a great deal of time on a transportation package.

Nearly a quarter of the 60-member House of Representatives and three of the 30-member Senate will be freshmen. Two other incoming senators—Lew Frederick, D-Portland, and Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland—come from serving in the Oregon House.

Legislative leaders shared thoughts and opinions as the session began:

Oregon Senate

“We are ready to get to work accomplishing the things that matter to all Oregonians,” Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) said. “This session, Senate Democrats will fight for greater government transparency, continuing to grow Oregon’s economy—particularly small businesses—and ensuring we have the necessary policies in place to keep Oregonians healthy and safe.” The agenda focuses on three key areas:

  • Growing Oregon’s economy by investing in education, small businesses and our workforce across the state;
  • Fostering government accountability and transparency; and
  • Keeping Oregon healthy and safe.

Senate Democrats will work to give small businesses greater opportunity to grow and thrive. Senate Bill 1589 expands the eligibility criteria for small businesses to qualify for loans or grants from Business Oregon’s Credit Enhancement Fund.

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, of John Day, added that the session “presents tremendous opportunity to craft sound policy solutions to strengthen our state for urban and rural Oregonians. We must address the significant issues facing our transportation problems and advance sound solutions to protect Oregonians’ from increased costs and burdens.”

Oregon House

Yesterday also saw the swearing in of 10 new House Democrats.

“I’m excited to get to work improving educational opportunities for all Oregon students and finding innovative ways to support small businesses,” said Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley), one of the freshmen. “Voters sent all of us here to be their voice and make sure that state government is working for them—that’s a responsibility I know we all take very seriously.” Due to the results of the November election, the House Democratic Caucus is—for the first time in Oregon House history and only the second time in the state’s legislative history—majority women.

Treasurer’s Office

After taking the oath of office on January 6, new State Treasurer Tobias Read outlined his priorities and called for a new era of collaboration and optimism. Read said his office will work to empower Oregonians to invest in themselves, to vigilantly protect the state’s financial condition, and to promote long-term thinking in infrastructure and investment programs.

New State Treasurer Tobias Read taking the oath of office yesterday. (Photo: Wallowa County Chieftain)

“Oregonians are forward thinking, innovative, driven, and independent-minded. Both our economy and our population are among the fastest growing in the country,” Treasurer Read said. “Yet this growth is uneven, and we face some significant risks to maintaining Oregon’s renowned quality of life. In order to find the right solutions, we must work together.”

Treasurer Read will work to help build a stronger financial future for every Oregonian. His goals as Treasurer will be guided by three key themes:

  • Helping Oregonians to invest in themselves, their futures and their families’ futures, via empowerment programs like the Oregon 529 College Savings Network and the Oregon Retirement Savings Plan, which is the nation’s first such plan and will launch in July;
  • Oregon will do business the right way. In addition to setting the tone for prudent and accountable fiscal leadership, the State Treasury is a critical financial enterprise that invests a $90 billion portfolio and manages billions in financial transactions annually;
  • Oregonians must employ long-term thinking and invest wisely, including in key infrastructure to improve education, commerce and job opportunities statewide.

The Northwest Credit Union Association is currently reviewing the 1,553 legislative bills that were introduced today and will be providing updates throughout the legislative session.

Feel free to stay connected with your Advocacy team throughout the session for how your credit union can get involved and influence the debate in Salem. One way to do so is through the CU Day at the Capitol. Click here to find out how one day of credit union advocacy can have a big impact, year-round.

Questions about this story? Contact Eric Horvath: 503.350.2222, ehorvath@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News, NWCUA.