By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10
Dear Neighbors and friends,
I’ve just returned from our third Ways and Means Roadshow – this time in Roseburg.
We’re hearing consistent (and sometimes organized) messages as we travel the state and listen to Oregonians. In Newport last week, sincere funding requests, in no specific order, included K-12 funding at $10.3 billion, childcare support, marine reserve funding, water treatment infrastructure, homeless resources, docks and pier repairs, arts and culture, school gardens, higher ed increases and tuition decreases, workforce housing, Opportunity Grants, support for the hearing impaired, DSP wages, pre-trial investments, specialty courts, food insecurity, OSU marine research, marine education grants, legal aid funding, broadband for libraries, after school and summer programs, CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates for children, and Relief (child care) Nurseries.
The Committee travels to Ontario next week. If you want to participate and share your own thoughts, the next good opportunity is the final hearing scheduled for May 3. This will be a virtual hearing and you can testify from home anywhere in Oregon. Sign up here.
And again, we expect a lot of people to ask to speak with a limit on how many we can hear in two hours. To be fair and diverse, witnesses are called randomly from lists covering different subject areas. Remember, you can also submit written testimony which can be longer and more comprehensive.
With a more constrained revenue picture, the legislature will need to make focused, deliberate choices. That’s a polite way of saying that there isn’t enough money to pay for everything that everyone wants.
The next few weeks as we finalize plans for state funding will be … interesting. Get a sense of these meetings in this three-minute news report.
It is interesting, and a bit daunting, to hear from people around Oregon sharing their concerns and priorities. But what are our priorities in our part of Oregon?
Certainly, we share the desire to better fund schools, housing, health care, roads, public safety, and job creation. But we also have more specific local
needs. To that end, the Coastal Caucus wrote Committee leaders last week with a list of projects we hope to see funded in the new budget.
- Following a ten-year review of the ODFW Marine Reserves program by Oregon State University, HB 2903 codifies recommendations from the HB 2903 A and HB 5509 – Marine Reserves Program funding and the restoration of Community Engagement Project Leader position. Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC). These recommendations include an ongoing fiscal ask to support the development and adoption of an adaptive management plan for Oregon’s marine reserves program and adds two positions. It is crucial that this funding be secured to ensure that Oregon’s marine reserves continue to be managed the Oregon way, through diverse representation of ocean stakeholders.
- HB 2909 – Oregon Seafood Prospecting. Ninety percent of the seafood served in Oregon restaurants does not come from Oregon. HB 2909 will provide targeted investments in Oregon’s coastal seafood system, strengthening support for dozens of small businesses, creating and maintaining hundreds of living wage jobs, and producing a more profitable agriculture sector. These projects are designed to maximize impact and expand and align with the Oregon Coast Visitors Association’s (OCVA) current Ocean Cluster Initiative – a public-private community partnership to capture more value from Oregon’s seafood and make local seafood easier to find and buy.
- HB 3139 – Maritime Workforce Development. Oregon’s maritime sector plays a key economic role in many rural, coastal communities. With a large share of the current workforce set to retire or shift careers in the next ten years, there is a need to train a new generation of individuals for careers in the maritime sector to fill these gaps. HB 3139 will provide $1M annually to the Higher Education Commission in collaboration with local workforce development boards to make targeted investments in workforce development programs that prepare individuals for careers in the maritime sector and to hire community college faculty and staff with maritime expertise to assist with curriculum selection for educational programs.
- HB 3416 – Targeted industrial lands projects. HB 3416 is designed to build infrastructure, attract development and industry, and provide gainful employment to Oregon’s rural and frontier communities, who have been experiencing a growing disparity in average household income compared to the rest of the State. It funds 13 projects across 11 rural and frontier counties. Three of these projects are in Coastal districts – connecting sewer lines to industrial sites in Waldport, funding dock repairs in Depoe Bay, and initiating sewer improvements in Monroe. Each of these projects were selected due to their shovel-readiness, and their ability to leverage opportunities for these often-underserved communities to attract federal special public works dollars.
- Lottery Bond Request – Marine Navigation Improvement Fund for Port Dredging. The Coastal Caucus requested that this allocation be made to the Marine Improvement Fund for Port Dredging to allow five major Oregon ports to perform maintenance dredging. The requested funds will receive a 50% match from the Ports Association to allow each of these ports to remain operative at the necessary level. The funding will be allocated as follows: $448,690 to the Port of Bandon to dredge boat basins currently unusable during low tide, $150,000 to the Port of Brookings Harbor to recover 18 currently unusable boat mooring slips, $225,000 to the Port of Garibaldi to ease access to port facilities for seafood offloads, $750,000 to the Port of Newport to maintain the depths authorized for the NOAA Marine Operations-Pacific berths, and $40,000 to the Port of Toledo to prevent existing moorage sites from becoming inaccessible. It is crucial that these funds be supplied for ports to address high rates of sediment accumulation to avoid significant economic consequences due to reduction in port capacity.
- HB 2206 A – Credits for the restoration of salmon habitat. HB 2206 directs Department of State Lands, in consultation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, to develop a salmon credit pilot program to encourage voluntary restoration of salmonid habitat in the Coquille and Coos watershed basins. The bill also establishes a Salmon Credit Trust Fund and directs the Department of State Lands and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to consult with the United States Army Corp of Engineers to develop general permits to authorize restoration activities under the pilot program. This program will allow for an increase in private landowners voluntarily engaging in rebuilding salmon populations, with the opportunity to expand along the entire coast and all watersheds.
- SB 753 – Sudden Oak Death response. The bill specifies funds to be used for carrying out an integrated pest management program which is described in ORS 527.310 to 527.370. The economic impact to the Coast if Sudden Oak Death (SOD) were to spread northward unchecked would be massive as quarantines on timber, as well as nursery stock, would shut down exports.
- SB 679 A – The Oregon Coast Trail. Currently there are gaps among the existing ten sections of the Oregon Coast Trail where it is inconvenient, unsafe, or inaccessible, including portions where individuals must hike on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 101. The end goal is to have a continuous trail from the Washington border to the California border while enhancing safety and access. Besides providing excellent exercise in a way that encourages our residents to interact with and experience the most beautiful coast in the country, the potential economic impact to the coastal towns and cities along the trail is significant as the hikers will stay, eat, and recreate in those locations along the trail.
The Coastal Caucus is a bicameral, bipartisan group of Oregon State Legislators that represent all Oregon Coast districts. We are senators and representatives, democrats and republicans. We look at issues facing the coast based on geography rather than partisanship. And as a result, working together, we tend to enjoy more influence than our seven votes might be expected to garner. I currently serve as Caucus chair.
Last session, we took a number of steps to support survivors of wildfires. But clearly there is more work to be done.
This session I have sponsored four bills intended to address insurance and taxes. I’m also working to secure budget support to help repair local roads damaged by heavy traffic during wildfire recovery efforts.
HB 2982 – Disaster Recovery Insurance Reforms: In the wake of the September 2020 fires it became clear that there were significant gaps in some insurance policies that left policyholders struggling at the very moment when they needed help. To be sure, many insurers stepped up quickly after the fires to help families who lost everything. But that made the practices of other insurers stand out even more starkly.
Residents who lost everything had to pursue insurance claims on the loss of both dwelling and possessions. I heard from many residents who told me how difficult and re-traumatizing this process was for them.
HB 2982 will change current law to allow disaster survivors who experience a total loss to receive a flat 70% payout of personal property coverage. This is an optional alternative to the completion of proof of loss forms required by the insurer. If you pay for coverage, at your moment of crisis you should have a fair chance of recovering your loss without enduring excessive insurance requirements. Current status: passed House, scheduled for work session in Senate Committee on Labor and Business.
HB 2812 – Wildfire Loss Tax Deductions: If a wildfire is not declared a federal disaster, survivors can’t deduct personal losses on their tax returns because the federal Tax Cuts and Job Act in 2018 limited deductions to losses incurred in federally-declared emergencies. And since the state income tax code is connected to the federal code, when a federal deduction isn’t allowed, there is no state deduction either.
HB 2812 will fix this by instituting a state tax deduction in cases where we have a state-declared disaster. The federal change is scheduled to revert in 2025, but HB 2812 will fill the void until, and if, the federal deduction is changed. The bill covers the period from 2020 to 2026, so individuals who see a financial advantage can file amended returns to use the deduction. Current status: Joint Committee on Tax Expenditures
HB 3461 and SB 1012 – Property Tax Reductions: Following the Labor Day fires, we saw many survivors experience staggering increases in their property taxes when they rebuilt. The replacement may have been newer, larger, or different. And with improvements came higher assessments leading to higher taxes even though for most survivors, income had not increased. These two measures offer alternative ways to provide relief.
HB 3461 allows increases to be deferred for up to five years, allowing survivors to get back on their financial feet. SB 1012 would freeze tax rates for the new property at the rate of the old property until sold or ownership changed. Current status: 3461 was referred to the House Committee on Revenue and had a hearing on March 22. Another meeting is scheduled for April 27. 1012 passed the Senate and was assigned to the House Committee on Climate, Energy, and Environment. A work session was scheduled today and the bill may be sent to Revenue.
This has been a longer, bill-specific newsletter and I hope you skipped ahead to the portions that interested you most. The session has now passed the mid-point, and there is plenty going on.
With the pandemic in the rearview mirror, a new governor, and 22 new House members, the 2023 legislative session has been a time to regroup, reimagine, and rebuild. Now we need to spend the remainder of this session ensuring that the state is on a solid path toward recovery and revitalization.
I leave you with this happy photo from last Friday and the opening of the new Seed and Read Garden at the Newport Library.
It just fascinates me to watch how libraries have evolved. We don’t just have books. We have CDs, we have movies, we’ve got Wifi, we’ve got a clothing library, a food library, and now we get a seed library. Who would have ever imagined a seed library in the place where we used to go to quietly read books?
It’s just magical to watch this evolution, and the thing that’s so very exciting to me is to imagine 10 or 20 years from now what our libraries will be doing, especially with so many people in the community that are prepared to step up and help make these exciting new concepts into a reality … I can’t wait to see what’s next!
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