As we all know, an education crisis exists in Oregon. This crisis is very entrenched and will require innovative approaches if we are ever going to get our schools back on track.
Last session I fought for a no-cuts schools budget and teacher health insurance pooling that would re-direct savings of roughly $100 million into the classroom.
However, neither bill was allowed to be heard in committee.
In walking door-to-door, talking with people about the various concerns they face in their lives, one conversation struck me as particularly troubling. A young woman I met in Forest Grove told me that her third-grade daughter couldn't bring her books home to study because there weren't enough to go around.
Other folks have told me about math classes of over 30 students.
We've lost art and music teachers to budget cuts. Fees for sports and other extracurricular activities seem to go up every time you turn around.
We must invest in the future of education and seriously consider all of the options.
I still support cutting waste by creating a statewide teachers health insurance purchasing pool and suspending the corporate kicker, which may send over $200 million dollars to out of state corporations and away from our schools.
However, these options still would not provide enough funding to fix Oregon's schools.
We need to have an honest discussion about how corporate tax breaks are affecting education funding.
Not all tax breaks are bad. Many are critical to Oregon's economic health and I have supported research and development tax incentives designed to bring family-wage jobs to Washington County.
However, tax breaks comprise an amount roughly equal to Oregon's general fund budget of 11 billion dollars and we never evaluate them against the needs of our children.
For example, how do tax breaks for U.S. multinational corporations with operations based in low-tax countries compare with our third graders' lack of textbooks?
Is an extraterritorial income exclusion, which allows foreign-trade income-tax deductions of 15 to 30 percent, as important as extracurricular activities that keep our kids away from drugs, alcohol, and crime?
The combined budget impact of these two tax breaks is nearly $49 million. That would buy a lot of textbooks and keep a lot of kids busy after school in positive activities!
Oregon has never had a frank discussion about the costs and benefits of these and other tax breaks in comparison with the needs of our kids.
Clearly this is a discussion worth having. I have already submitted a bill to sunset and review all corporate tax breaks every six years on a rotating basis.
Additionally, I have been appointed to the governor's work group that will explore how we handle tax expenditures and I am interested in pursuing the solutions they may propose.
I would like to know what the people I represent think about this issue. I will continue going door-to-door for the entire interim and I want to hear your thoughts on this matter.
State Rep. Chuck Riley, a Democrat, represents the 29th legislative district, which stretches from the west side of Hillsboro to Forest Grove. Terry Rilling, his Republican opponent in the November election, has been offered the chance to respond to this column.