Final thoughts from Salem
In January 2003, when I entered the Legislature as representative for Lake Oswego and lower southwest Portland, Oregon was gripped by a recession. Shrinking revenues forced budget cuts. Schools closed early for the year and needy Oregonians were dropped from Medicaid health coverage.
As I leave the Oregon Legislature this month, the state again finds itself in hard times. The collapse of the financial markets and a steep drop in employment signal a deeper and longer recession. But actions we took in the past six years are likely to put Oregon in a stronger position than in the last downturn.
In the last recession Oregon had no reserves to maintain essential services. Then in 2007 we created a 'rainy day fund,' initially funded by suspending the corporate 'kicker,' an odd provision of the state constitution requiring payment of unexpected revenue to corporations.
In 2003 the cost of Oregon's Public Employee Retirement System spiraled upward just as the ability of public employers to pay was shrinking. Some local governments faced possible bankruptcy from rising PERS contributions. I crafted PERS legislation to preserve a secure lifetime pension for workers at a cost the state, cities and school districts can afford.
Several years ago a meth epidemic raged across the state. Fighting meth consumed law enforcement resources. Children living in homes with meth labs often went into foster care, straining social service budgets. I joined three other legislators to lead passage of the toughest restriction in the country on the raw material used to cook meth. As a result, meth labs in Oregon have nearly disappeared.
A 2004 ballot measure required state and local governments to compensate owners when land use restrictions reduce the value of their properties or waive those restrictions. Governments have no resources to pay such compensation in good times and even less during a recession. I co-chaired the committee that wrote Measure 49, limiting development by long-time property owners to a few homesites and avoiding the need to pay compensation. As a result, public funds can be used for more pressing needs.
One of the best ways to quickly stimulate economic activity is to launch construction projects for new and refurbished public facilities. Our infrastructure of roads, bridges and public buildings has deteriorated. Fixing or replacing them pays off twice: the work itself creates jobs and the result improves public services. In 2007 we authorized a major construction program for buildings on Oregon's university and community college campuses, work that is long overdue.
Moving forward, we must develop the new industries that will put people back to work and help lift the state out of recession. Oregon is becoming a center for renewable energy, one of the few industries experiencing rapid growth. In 2007 we passed a requirement that 25 percent of our electricity come from wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources within a few years. We also expanded the tax incentives for locating renewable energy manufacturing plants in Oregon.
Support from the people of House District 38 has been essential to these successes. It has been an honor to represent this community. Although my term in the House ends on Jan. 12, I will continue to advocate for actions that strengthen our state's economy and improve the lives of Oregonians. I can be reached by e-mail at votemacgmail.com or regular mail at 322 Second St., Lake Oswego, OR, 97034.
Rep. Greg Macpherson, Lake Oswego, is ending his third term as state representative for House District 38. He chose not to seek re-election, instead running for state Attorney General. He lost in the Oregon primary last year for that race.