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A bit brighter Legislative session is under way

Oregon’s 77th Legislative Assembly convened on Jan. 14. I am honored to again serve the people of Lake Oswego and Southwest Portland in the Oregon House of Representatives. Garrett

After several years of declining revenue and major cuts to state services in the wake of Wall Street’s 2008 collapse, we enter the 2013 session with stable revenue forecasts and a gradual economic recovery. Still, there is much to be done to improve the day-to-day lives of Oregonians, in our community and across the state.

School funding remains a top concern. Governor Kitzhaber’s proposed budget would slightly increase funding for K-12 education, which is welcome news but not sufficient to begin to undo the damage inflicted by years of cuts. In addition to supporting a greater financial commitment from the state, I will also support tax reform proposals that will allow local communities to use their own funding to the full extent voters wish. Because of quirks in current law, Lake Oswego is prevented from fully realizing the benefit of the “local option” that voters enact for schools. That needs to change.

This session I will be co-chairing a special Committee on Public Safety, which will consider proposals for reforming Oregon’s criminal justice system to make communities safer at a lower cost. Without policy changes, Oregon faces $600 million in new prison costs over the next decade, despite the fact that crime is at a 40-year low and schools and other vital services are suffering. It doesn’t need to be this way. We can adopt methods to curb prison growth and reinvest those savings in local policing, drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, and other strategies for preventing crime. It was a privilege to work on these issues as part of Governor Kitzhaber’s Commission on Public Safety; I look forward to leading this discussion in the Legislature.

Another area of potential savings is PERS. Because of the 2008 Wall Street collapse, the state’s pension fund lost more than a quarter of its value in a single year. This has forced public employers to increase their contributions to the system. The Legislature will take a hard look at reforms proposed by the governor, the state treasurer and others. While many suggestions for changing PERS have surfaced, previous court decisions have made it clear that the state cannot take away benefits that current workers and retirees have already earned. With that legal constraint in mind, I will join my colleagues in searching for fair and reasonable ways to strengthen the system for the long term.

Some of the other issues on my agenda include stiffening penalties for hit-and-run drivers; reforming the initiative process to prevent costly unfunded mandates; modifying the income tax “kicker” in order to increase the state’s Rainy Day Fund; and promoting more flexible approaches to conservation policy in land management and infrastructure development.

The Legislature will take up numerous other topics during the next few months, including the I-5 Bridge replacement, medical malpractice lawsuits, the continuation of Oregon’s landmark health care reforms and gun control and school violence.

As always, I welcome your comments on any of the issues I have mentioned, as well as others that you would like to discuss. I look forward to serving you in the coming session.

To reach Rep. Chris Garrett, D-Lake Oswego from District 38 in the Oregon House, send mail to him at 900 Court St. N.E., Room H-283, Salem, OR 97301; phone 503-986-1438; or e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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  • 20 Dec 2014

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