Lawmakers Press for Quick Plan to Pursue Semiconductor Plants
Governor Kotek unveiled a $32.1 billion General Fund biennial budget last week that prioritizes spending on housing, mental health and addiction treatment. Her budget proposal calls for $9.9 billion for K-12 schools and $1 billion to build and preserve affordable housing.
Kotek’s budget was well received by majority Democrats who generally agree with her spending priorities and by Republicans who expressed relief she didn’t try to claw back a projected $3.7 billion in kicker rebates. To cover $765 million in added spending, Kotek recommended redirecting the scheduled payment to the state’s reserve accounts, which now total $2 billion.
Week three of the 2023 legislative session included pleas to continue funding for summer education programs, expressions of concern about identifying tracts of farmland for semiconductor manufacturing plants and requests by Oregon’s performing venues struggling financially for continued funding.
A Douglas County commissioner told lawmakers about efforts to combat illegal cannabis farming. After being stopped by Oregon State Police three times on I-5, a North Portland lawmaker claimed he was profiled because he is Black. Lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle defended hiring wives and family members as paid legislative staff in the face of a bill to bar the longstanding practice as nepotism. Three bills received attention that would change rules for pharmacy benefit managers, which rural pharmacy owners say threaten their existence in sparsely populated areas.
A Republican member of the Idaho Legislature introduced a resolution inviting Oregon lawmakers to join in a conversation about the potential secession of several Eastern Oregon counties to forge ‘Greater Idaho’. “Is it a long shot? Probably,” said Rep. Judy Boyle. “But how will we know if we never start?”
Housing Goal Challenges
Housing advocates and producers applauded Kotek’s goal to add 36,000 housing units per year, but pointed to major challenges from land availability to enough construction workers.
Chasing Chip Plants
Lawmakers hope to approve a plan in the next 40 days to fight for a slice of the $54 billion in the federal CHIPS Act intended to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research. Kotek has signaled a willingness to support a fighting fund in the $200 million to $300 million range. Business leaders have talked about a fund as large as $500 million. In either case, it would be the largest economic development undertaken by the state. There is opposition to using farmland for chip plants.
Combating Illegal Cannabis Farming – HB 2253
Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice described his community’s vigorous efforts to combat illegal cannabis farming because of serious environmental effects, employment violations and impacts on neighboring property values. Boice said 87 potentially illegalgrow sites have been investigated in the last two years by the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team, which seized 351,335 marijuana plants. He advocated for legislation “to put some teeth into the ag exemption law” so someone who knowingly grows illegal cannabis can lose their tax exemption for up to five years.
Continued Funding for Summer Education Programs – SB 531
Advocates made their case for continued funding for afterschool and summer educational enrichment programs. Those programs have been funded previously, but not an ongoing basis that advocates say makes planning and continuity difficult.
Venues Seek Further Funding – HB 2459
Arts group and performing venue representatives asked lawmakers to approve a second round of $50 million to sustain organizations struggling to regain their audiences following the pandemic. Nearly half of the amount would be apportioned to seven larger organizations and 77 smaller venues.
Black Legislator Claims Police Profiling
Rep. Travis Nelson, a Portland Democrat and the only Black male member of the House, claims he is a victim of police profiling after being stopped twice in three days on his way home from Salem. In a written statement, Nelson, who is a nurse, said he has been pulled over 40 times in his lifetime. On his two most recent stops, Nelson said he was given traffic warnings.
Legislative Nepotism – HB 3106
House Majority Leader Julie Fahey has introduced a bill to eliminate the longstanding, bipartisan practice of legislators hiring family members for paid staff positions. An OPB survey found that at least 15 of the 90 legislative offices have family members on thepayroll. Rural lawmakers defended the practice, noting it’s difficult during winter to return home every weekend and hire people knowledgeable about their districts. Several lawmakers said having spouses on staff “enhances representation” of lawmakers.
Pleas from Rural Pharmacies
Independent pharmacies contend they are financially squeezed by pharmacy benefit managers and called for greater regulation to prevent more closures that result on “pharmacy deserts” in rural areas.
Invitation to Discuss Secession
An Idaho legislator introduced a resolution calling for a conversation between lawmakers from both states to begin a conversation about realignment to create a Greater Idaho. Eleven Oregon counties have voted in favor of seceding or exploring secession.
Kotek Budget Details
OPB reported details of Kotek’s first budget
- $172.2 million to help people connect to long-term rental assistance
- $73 million to create long-lasting homelessness prevention programs in Oregon
- $24.1 million to maintain shelter operations, including the 600 new shelter beds and those created through the Project Turnkey projects
- $4.5 million to help people who provide housing support pay for affordable insurance
- $5.3 continued emergency response coordinated by the Oregon Department of Emergency Management and Oregon Housing Community Services
- $130 million to build new permanent supportive housing
- $770 million in bonding to help build new affordable homes for renters and new homeowners
- $118 million to preserve existing affordable homes, including manufactured homes and another $4 million to support replacing old and inefficient manufactured homes
- $13.6 million for down payment assistance
- $5 million for community land trusts
- $9.4 million to improve community access to housing by helping with language translation, technical assistance to Oregon Housing Community Services
- $5 million to Oregon’s nine sovereign tribal nations
- $195.7 million continued funding for aid and assist services, peer respite centers, housing for transition-age youth and more
- $40 million to increase additional mental health residential capacity
- $14.9 million to fund civil commitment services, expand jail diversion services to all counties, intervention and outreach to patients before people are civilly committed
- $12.3 million for expanding rehabilitation services
- $8.7 million for substance use disorder for treatments at Oregon State Penitentiary and Snake River Correctional Institution
- $18.4 million to fund 988 suicide and crisis lifelines
- $47.6 million for programs like CAHOOTS to divert people from hospital and jail
- $278.9 million in addiction treatment, overdose prevention, peer support services, funded partly by Measure 110 grants
- $15 million for inpatient treatment and recovery community centers
- $40 million to reduce deaths associated with opioid use
- $7.7 million to help prevent youth and adult suicides
- $127 million for Medicaid rate increases for increased wages for behavioral health workers
- $60 million for loan repayment, scholarships and tuition stipends for licensed behavioral health providers and students in the workforce pipeline
- $20 million to increase Oregon Health Authority’s health care provider incentive program to recruit and retain diverse health care workers
- $34.5 million to increase staffing at the Oregon State Hospital
- $3.5 million to create an established health equity unit at the state hospital
- $4.2 million for the complex case management unit at the Oregon State Hospital
- $8 million to upgrade the hospital facilities and improve patient recovery
Education (in addition $9.9 billion for State School Fund)
- $100 million to increase student literacy and ensure preschool and elementary school educators have the training, time and materials they need
- $20 million for summer programs aimed at increasing literacy
- $62.5 increasing pay rates for early learning professionals
- $41.3 million increase rates for employment-related day care enhancements
- $5 million to co-locate early childhood education and affordable housing
- $100 million to expand physical capacity of preschool and child care facilities
- $30 million for summer enrichment programming
- $18 million to increase investments in student success plans
- $1.4 million to implement ethnic studies
- $4.8 million for rural and small school technical assistance