Oregon’s most recent revenue forecast was released last week during a meeting at the state capitol in Salem. I attended as part of my duties as a member of the House Revenue Committee. Members of the Senate Revenue Committee were also present.
According to representatives of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, the state's job market is performing well, compared to the national average. Nationally, the growth in personal income is slowing. That particular trend has yet to hit Oregon. But there are reasons for concern overall.
Weakness in the American manufacturing sector is spreading. Recessionary fears are rising, but remain low for now.
It’s no secret that there have been massive shifts in the U.S. manufacturing sector over the past few decades, with the globalization of the economy sometimes resulting in the loss of entire industries that once formed the backbone of our middle class.
One of the biggest problems facing our remaining manufacturing firms is workforce development. Put simply, workers are no longer receiving the kinds of training they need to fill the positions in those industries. Many public high schools no longer offer the kinds of vocational classes that traditionally provided students with the opportunities to gain hands-on experience in those fields.
Furthermore, there is high anticipated demand for such workers due to pending retirements. Those particular positions will be for industrial machinery mechanics, maintenance and repair workers, specialty welders, production supervisors and operating workers.
Last April, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held a meeting in which it considered a bill that would have prohibited the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission from including the Canadian gray wolf on a state list of threatened or endangered species. As a member of that committee, I participated in the public hearing on the proposed legislation, House Bill 3515.
Much of the written testimony in opposition to the bill came from people who live outside of the state. Still more of it came from people who live in areas of Oregon that are beyond where the wolves are currently living. As frequently happens, variations of a form letter were used by opponents of the proposal. Those talking points are typically put together by special interest groups and circulated to their supporters in an attempt to influence public policy.
Last week was a busy one at the state capitol in Salem, as legislators held their latest round of interim committee meetings.
Four of the six committees to which I’m assigned met during that time. Needless to say, it was a very busy week.
Members of the Oregon Legislature will convene in Salem the week of November 16 for the next round of committee days.
Throughout most of the state’s history, the Legislature has met only in regular sessions during odd-numbered years. That changed as a result of Measure 71 passing in the November 2010 general election with nearly 68 percent of the vote.
The State of Oregon’s most recent revenue forecast (PDF) was released on August 26 during a joint meeting of the interim House and Senate Revenue committees.
Revenue forecasts are used as the basis for the state’s overall budget, and enable lawmakers to make adjustments to the amounts allocated to the various agencies and commissions that provide services to all Oregonians.
Salem, OR—Committee appointments have been officially announced for the 2015-16 interim period between the adjournment of the recent regular session and the start of the next one in February.
Rep. Gail Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) was assigned to a series of committees that will consider issues important to the residents of House District 56, which she represents, as well as people from all over Oregon. They include:
House Agriculture and Natural Resources—Issues are considered in this committee relating to farming, ranching, water and other matters that are critical to rural areas such as the Klamath Basin. It is chaired by Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie). The vice chairs are Rep. Wayne Krieger (R-Gold Beach) and Rep. Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro). Also serving on the committee are Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove), Rep. Sal Esquivel (R-Medford), Rep. Lew Frederick (D-Portland), Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) and Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay).
“The forced change of the use of water from irrigation to grow food and fiber to in-stream flows for the benefit of fish is the overarching cause of the persistent water shortages in the Upper Klamath River Basin. Our state and federal governments have accomplished ALL of these changes regarding the use of water entirely through the application of administrative actions.”
Throughout recorded history, the Klamath Basin has experienced periodic meteorological droughts lasting from one to several years. That reality is normal for high mountain valleys located east of the Cascade summit. Traditionally, water users have worked together with good success to get through those drought years.
However, during the past twenty years, the Basin has experienced persistent, ongoing and worsening man-caused droughts. Water that has been stored and used for irrigation for more than a century has been reallocated under the public trust doctrine by our state and federal governments for alleged higher and better uses.
Excerpt from Gail Whitsett’s Feb. 20th Newsletter
An entire two and a half hour committee meeting in Agriculture and Natural Resources was dedicated to our HB 4044, which was the bill regarding determining, by empirical scientific evidence, interference between ground water and surface water before cutting off permitted irrigation well water by the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD).
Over 130 Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers have been threatened by the OWRD to have their irrigation ground water wells shut down as soon as April 2014. This is in addition to the same ranches having all of their surface water called on, and shut off, by the Klamath Tribes (as the newly adjudicated senior water right holder) and the OWRD in 2013. The adjudication provides absolutely no direct statutory control over ground water, but the OWRD is trying to tie the two water sources (ground and surface) together in an attempt to gain control over all of the ranch and farm lands (through their water) in certain areas of the Basin, without going through the process of defining a “Critical Groundwater Area”. OWRD does not want to go through this process as there really is not a shortage of ground water in this region.
Senator Whitsett and I wrote HB 4044 which would require the OWRD to provide specific empirical field science for EACH well that they are going to shut down. This is in contrast to OWRD’s attempt to regulate and shut down the wells as a group, from a very broad regional computer study.
I wanted to echo some of the same sentiments as our leadership on the recent special session. It was a good bipartisan effort to pass the special session agenda as put forth by the governor. Unlike the regular 2013 session, both parties had to participate in order to move the agenda forward. There was much to like and much to dislike about the bills which were crafted into an all-or-none agenda by the governor.
SB 861 & SB 862 (PERS)
My view was that the single most important issue is starting to get PERS under control. The COLA reform bill (SB 861), as well as SB 862 which removes future legislators from PERS, was a good start. The unfunded long term liability for PERS has now been reduced by about 25-30%, which will be several billion dollars in savings. SB 861 will undoubtedly be challenged in the courts and so it remains to be seen if the actions taken by the legislature will be upheld by the judiciary.
It is my hope that it will be; otherwise, the entire retirement system will be unsustainable, jeopardizing our education system and the fiscal health of all of our cities and counties.