This is Rep. Phil Barnhart's report sent to weekly newspapers this week:
With the end of the legislative session fast approaching, we are still working to accomplish what Oregonians sent us here to do.
Oregon voters have spoken loud and clear about their priorities. They want us to close tax breaks for the rich and to make our tax code fairer for the middle class. I hear this routinely at coffee meetings from constituents in all parts of my district. Democrats hold a slight majority in both chambers, but Oregon’s Constitution requires a supermajority to pass revenue raising bills. That leaves lot of questions unanswered.
Can we rein in tax breaks to strengthen education funding? We still have an opportunity to take action to strengthen budgets for schools. To date, Republicans have blocked any revenue for schools from moving forward.
Will we be able to provide health care and long term services for senior citizens? By renewing existing assessments that support hospitals and nursing homes, HB 2216 would bring in $2 billion(much of it coming from the federal government) to cover services for senior citizens and hospital patients, and protect and create thousands of jobs in the healthcare industry. But despite receiving broad bipartisan support from the state House, Senate Republicans are holding up that bill in the name of partisan political games.
Can we give schools the stability and certainty they need? Senate Bill 5519 would begin to turn the corner and stop the recent disinvestment in education by allocating $6.55 billion to school districts in addition to $200 million in PERS savings we created with the passage of SB 822 That is $1 billion more than the budget passed in 2011,. But Senate Republicans are blocking that bill too.
All of these questions are still up in the air because Senate Republicans are using the equivalent of the filibuster to obstruct important bills from passing. We could help schools reduce class sizes, support our medical sector, and make our tax code fairer for the middle class. But Senate Republicans have chosen partisanship over solving our state’s problems. I will continue to work for honest solutions, and to make Oregon a better place to live.
At the end of a session things can move very fast. By the time you read this we may have resolved some of these problems, or not … stay tuned.
During the legislative sessions Rep. Phil Barnhart can be found at the Oregon State Capitol, Salem, (503)986-1411, or email firstname.lastname@example.org