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Building a GATE-way to public trust

Government needs to be more efficient. This is not new news.

I bet every Oregonian has their own story about some bureaucratic dead-end, needless hoop, excess fee; whatever it is, it’s frustrating — government just doesn’t work like it should.

So, we’re doing something about it. A group of legislators, led by Reps. Nancy Nathanson, Paul Holvey, Shemia Fagan, myself and many others, have joined together to start GATE — the Government Accountability, Transparency and Efficiency caucus.

Our goal is simple: build a GATE-way to a better budget by identifying waste, drafting solutions and shepherding bills through the process so we can save money and invest more in the services we need — schools, health care and public safety.

This is not headline-grabbing work. So you might not have heard about our successes already. Ten bills have passed the House — none have made headlines — but they’re good for the state. One bill that passed our chamber — HB 2143 — eliminates duplicative audits of county jails. We used to have to do two audits to get the same information, now we’ll get to do just one.

Another bill (HB 2207) that is coming to the House floor requires electronic deposit of paychecks to save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. A couple of GATE-sponsored bills have already passed both chambers now, and are on the governor’s desk to be signed.

One eliminates outdated methods for maintaining county fair levies and county expenses. It’s small, but each small thing is important.

And they’re not all small potatoes. We do have one big ticket item — HB 2001 — that would require regular accountability and evaluation of the tax deductions the state allows. Under current law, once an item, such as Oregon income for out-of-state banks, is allowed to be a tax deduction, it’s a tax deduction forever with no review. Forever is a long time.

HB 2001 would force the state to review tax deductions on a rotation to make sure the money we give away is well spent. That accountability is sorely needed, and should make sure our tax dollars are wisely spent on the schools and services we really need.

So there’s one big one and a bunch of small ones, and together, these common sense bills should, over the long run, rebuild the trust the public has with its government.

Clearly, we haven’t caught all the problems, so we’re looking for help. It’s just not possible for any one person — or four, or 60 — to find every inefficiency. So we’re also asking the public to pitch in with their ideas, suggestions and stories about how we could do the people’s work a lot better, a little bit at a time.

As elected officials, we ask the public to trust us to keep them safe, healthy and educated. The best way to do that is to work in a partnership with the public to fix the problems we see.

State Rep. Ben Unger, a Democrat, represents Oregon House District 29, which includes Gales Creek, Forest Grove and Cornelius.



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