Dear Friends and Neighbors,
June brings us closer to the end of the legislative session. The constitution requires we complete the budget and all pending business by mid-night, June 27. Bills that have not passed both chambers when we adjourn will die.
Back in January, nearly 4,000 measures were introduced. I expect when we finish, fewer than 600 will become law. That is not an unusual number. All of those proposals were a good idea to someone. But that doesn’t mean most of them are a good idea for Oregon. Fewer than a third even received a public hearing.
I also want to tell you that about 80% of the bills we have passed had unanimous support. Roughly 90% had bi-partisan support which is to say that members of both parties voted for them. Less than 10% of the time did a decision break down along partisan lines. That’s a bit of news you seldom hear.
About 150 of the bills we are hearing concern the state budget.
As one of the vice-chairs of the full Ways and Means Committee, and as co-chair of the Ways and Means Sub-Committee on Transportation and Economic Development, this is the time in the session when our work really ramps up. We have been crafting budgets for months, and we are now finalizing decisions and presenting them for votes in committees and on the floor. Agencies that my committee is responsible for include the Department of Transportation (ODOT), Employment Division, Business Oregon (OBDD), the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), Veterans Affairs, Real Estate Agency, Housing and Community Services, Consumer and Business Services (DCBS), and the and the Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC).
We’re also working on investments in local infrastructure. This includes disbursal of funds received from the Federal government as part of the America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and also dollars from lottery bond sales. Two years ago, we received approval for the Newport Dams, Lincoln City Cultural Center, and Oregon Coast Aquarium. But when lottery ticket sales declined, the bond sale was cancelled for the first time in our lottery’s history. That was a disappointing setback. I’m determined to see those projects funded again along with a myriad of regional water, sewer, port, school building, broadband, and safety programs.
Nothing is certain until it is final. Capital Construction projects will be listed on the very last bill we approve before adjournment.
On Thursday I presided over the afternoon House session as we passed nearly 20 bills.
On Thursday, I voted to pass Senate Bill 5514 A, which sets the two-year budget for our state schools at a record $9.3 billion. This is the largest K-12 budget in Oregon history. Those funds will be combined with almost $4.6 billion in property taxes and other local revenues for distribution through the school revenue formula.
This record level of investment will give students across the state the tools and resources they need to succeed.
Passing this $9.3 billion State School Fund budget will help Oregon’s nearly 200 school districts move forward with plans to support students, families, and teachers after a year in which COVID-19 and wildfires exacerbated disparities in education.
Overall, this represents a 3.3% increase over the 2019-21 State School Fund.
Our guiding principle in crafting Oregon’s education budget is to ensure students have the support they need to succeed, including social, emotional and mental health support.
The historic $9.3 billion K-12 budget, in addition to several other sources of funding including an influx of federal funding from the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, will help ensure we’re meeting the needs of our children.
As I mentioned earlier, this $9.3 billion will be combined with almost $4.6 billion in property taxes and other local revenues for distribution through the school revenue formula.
Additionally, the Legislature passed $250 million for summer learning, enrichment and childcare programs. That funding will allow many students to catch up and prepare for the next school year and support families who helped children through a year of remote learning.
Schools will also continue receiving funding from the landmark Student Success Act, which Oregon passed in 2019 to sustainably fund our education system with an additional $1 billion per year. The Student Success Act expands early education access, adds mental health resources for students, funds culturally specific programming, and restores art, music, PE, and career training.
The budget also funds the provisions of Measure 98, which voters passed to fund additional career, technical, and vocational education in schools.
The Oregon Constitution requires that our budget be balanced. We cannot spend more than we bring in. That requires careful balancing of needs and priorities. This school budget will stabilize education and also ensure we can fund health care, wildfire response, transportation, small business support, and other urgent concerns as we recover from one of the hardest economic recessions in our lifetimes and a global pandemic.
SB 5514 A, which passed 36-20, was approved by the Senate last week and now heads to the Governor’s desk.
On the COVID front, we are now on track to fully reopen Oregon on June 21. The Governor gave a COVID update in her press briefing on Friday. One major theme of the briefing was that Oregon is now experiencing two radically different pandemics: one for the vaccinated (an overall positive story) and one for the unvaccinated (a tale of ongoing risk).
A stark example was presented by a pulmonologist from Bend, where of the 98 COVID deaths they’ve experienced, all but one were unvaccinated. You can watch the briefing here (starts at 33’32”), find the slides here and read the press conference talking points here.
Here are some highlights:
We have 127,000 to go to hit the 70% threshold that will allow us to fully reopen the state.
The modeling suggests that we will get to that threshold by June 21st.
“Fully reopen” means no more capacity limits. Masks will no longer be required by the state except for places still limited by the federal government: airports, public transit, and medical facilities.
The more Oregonians are vaccinated, the safer it will be for those who CANNOT get the vaccine or for whom it’s not fully effective: people with cancer, those who are immunocompromised, and children.
Nearly all Oregonians coming into the hospital now are unvaccinated. Patients are younger because more older Oregonians have been vaccinated.
Counties with lower than median vaccination rates have higher than median COVID rates.
We are 18th in the nation for states whose populations have received at least one dose. We’re in the top ten of states at vaccinating 12-15 year olds.
People of color are continuing to be vaccinated at higher rates than white Oregonians.
Pharmacies are starting to give vaccinations in the evenings in order to be available for the “Vaccine Inconvenienced.”
The vaccine may be slightly less effective with COVID variants, but it appears to be equally effective at preventing serious effects from the disease.
If you are fully vaccinated, you can begin to put the pandemic behind you. You won’t have to quarantine yourself even if you come in contact with someone with COVID. At the bottom of this weekly report, I’ve provided some graphics on our progress.
For the next few weeks, I’ll continue to work long days in Salem.
Over the weekend, I recorded a radio interview that will broadcast on the Yaquina Network Tuesday morning. Saturday Susie and I stopped by the Newport Farmer’s Market, drove down to a business in Waldport, enjoyed Saturday afternoon at Art, Oysters and Brews in Toledo, and finished the day dining with good friends. I took some time Sunday to compose the commencement speech I will deliver for the Tillamook Bay Community College graduation.
It felt good to get out in the sunshine and to see people smiling. I hope your weekend was equally productive.
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10