The Oregon Legislature began its 77th annual session Monday, returning to Salem with much unfinished work from the previous session. The tied chamber in 2011 allowed for the heavy lifting necessary to make sweeping changes in education and health care, while balancing the budget with a large reserve balance. A break in the tie will change that dynamic moving forward.

Governor John Kitzhaber has built a precarious roadmap for the Legislature; balancing the budget is predicated on major reforms in PERS and public safety. The budget he’s built requires the Legislature to accomplish cost reforms, renew some existing taxes that sunset in 2013 and find a revenue source to cover the construction of the Columbia River Crossing. Those conversations won’t be easy, especially asking taxpayers for more money.

In November, voters passed Measure 85, dedicating the corporate kicker to education. With no corporate kicker in sight, Measure 85 did nothing real to help schools. That leaves us with a hole to fill. Kitzhaber’s plan incorporates PERS reform as a key mechanism to return as many as 500 teachers back into classrooms and reduce class sizes. As a mother with kids in public schools, I am generally in favor of Kitzhaber’s proposals to address rising PERS costs. The Oregonian’s “Politifact” recently affirmed that half the needed budget increase for schools will go straight to PERS. We must correct that if we’re going to keep new teachers in the system and retain programs to keep kids in school and graduating on time.

This session will also bring conversations about prison reform. We should look at sentencing and reducing recidivism of low-level offenders. Oregon’s high cost of incarceration, however, is driven by labor costs, not excessive sentencing. That sentiment is supported by district attorneys across Oregon.

The last major concept the Legislature is grappling with is the CRC. Do we build it? How do we fund it? What about light rail? As a new appointee to the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee, I’ll have a front row seat to this discussion. The Legislature will have to strike a balance between increased capacity for commerce and an appropriate funding mechanism that taxpayers in Oregon can accept.

I also have my own docket of community-driven bills. Educational choices for families, care of our veterans and economic development are the core pillars of why I ran for office and are reflected in the legislation I’m proposing this session. I’m again serving on House Education and Veterans Affairs so I’ll have the opportunity to present those concepts. I’ll also be introducing bills aimed at economic development to facilitate job creation.

Given the problems that need to be resolved, the Legislature must find ways to work together again, in spite of the more partisan makeup of the House in 2013. We owe it to our neighbors to maximize the value of services government provides at an affordable rate. A tenant of Rotary is, “Is it fair to all concerned?” This session is about striking the balance between what’s fair and what’s necessary.

I encourage you to get involved in the conversation. I always welcome constituents to my office, or send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I look forward to serving you this year!

Rep. Julie Parrish represents District 37, which encompasses West Linn and Tualatin.

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