If it accomplishes nothing else, the impasse at the Capitol in Salem is preventing the spending of hundreds of millions of additional dollars, at least for a while.
In a four-page press release Wednesday, the House speaker and the Senate president listed all the spending that the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee has approved but that can’t be passed into law as long as most of the Republicans in both chambers stay away.
Democrats Tina Kotek in the House and Peter Courtney in the Senate say their party’s legislators continue to work despite the Republicans “walking off the job to shut down the government.”
Voters in Albany and the rest of Oregon know that the state government has not shut down. Only the legislative branch has been disabled. And the reason is that the Democratic super majorities refuse to put their greenhouse gas reduction plan to the voters and intend to cram it down our throats instead.
So what are some of these budget bills that can’t be passed?
For starters, more than $100 million would be spent to “address Oregon’s housing and homelessness crises.” This includes $50 million to build “affordable housing” and $45 million to increase shelter capacity, including $16.5 million for “navigation centers” in Bend, Eugene, McMinnville, Medford, and Salem.
Then, there’s about $78 million additional for various programs under “wildfire and forest management.” The majority’s leaders say this is because “wildfire seasons are longer than ever due to the impacts of climate change.” (The 2019 Oregon wildfire season was three weeks shorter than average, the shortest this century.)
There also is more than $130 million for various “behavioral health services and family support programs.”
Then there’s money, a few million each, for local projects including the Salem water system, a community center in Woodburn, a downtown riverfront park in Eugene, the 2021 international track championship in Eugene, and a children’s museum in the Rogue Valley, among other things.
Counties are to get $25 million more for community corrections. An additional $20 million more is to be spent on public defenders, and $3 million would go toward child abuse intervention centers.
Six state universities would be in line for a total of more than $200 million in bonding for new buildings, including $21 million for a “student success center” in Monmouth and $13 million for a similar center Bend.
That’s a summary. The majority leaders say these are all “investments” to meet “critical needs across the state.” If that’s so, one wonders why, during this short session that has to end by Sunday night, these critical needs were not considered and dealt with first. (hh)