Roblan and Hanna meet public in Coos Bay town hall meeting
The bright spot of Oregon’s budget woes? Approximately $1.2 billion in new revenue. The bad news? It needs to be $3.5 billion.
“We are not going to keep doing the same things,” Roblan said during the town hall meeting.
The decisions will effect everyone, he warned.
“I mean, we have people who will be very upset by this.”
The waters of Oregon’s evenly split House have not been easy to navigate, but its co-speakers from Southern Oregon say they’re off to a good start.
Co-speakers Roblan, D-Coos Bay, and Hanna, R-Roseburg, made history when they were elected to preside over the Oregon House this year.
The conversation to organize the session hasn’t been a perfect one, but the leaders are happy to be bringing in different ideas, the two said.
They agree on one thing for sure: Do what’s best for Oregonians.
It’s a tenet representatives will have to adhere to when balancing the budget, although a healthy discussion is a good thing, they said.
Balancing the budget isn’t optional, and it’s Roblan’s top priority going into the session.
When looking at budget shortfalls, it’s tempting to drain special funds, like the one established for food safety or one for shellfish recreation, Roblan said.
Roblan said he considers emptying those funds a last resort, calling it unfair to people who pay into the funds because it increases their fees faster.
Sweeping funds isn’t the only option.
Decreasing the percentage of retirement the state pays into Public Employees Retirement System for certain employees from 6 to 3 percent can save $300 million over the biennium, Hanna said.
Cutting the state’s 100 percent contribution for state employees’ health care benefits also can save money, he added.
A new committee on tax credits also will help by analyzing which breaks work and which ones don’t, they said. The evaluation could help entice businesses to the state.
The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay and the timber industry also can be more powerful economic engines on the South Coast.
Until the Legislature can have a meaningful conversation about having a professionally sustained timber harvest, “we’re missing the boat,” said Hanna, who grew up in Myrtle Creek.
“It’s hard for people to see trees as a crop,” Roblan said.
However, places like the Elliott State Forest are meant to be harvested to help fund schools, and Roblan said he’s open to discussing harvesting more of these trees.
The port’s work to re-open rail service between Eugene and Coquille will help drop shipping costs and could mean additional docks if enough cargo exists, Roblan said. Eventually it would mean more hustle and bustle like the city saw 30 years ago.
“I loved that community,” Roblan said. “So I hope we can help the port do that.”