By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10
Dear Neighbors and Friends,
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite annual celebration. It is a time to pause and reflect and appreciate all the things we have to be truly grateful for.
We have learned in the face of all that recent years have thrown at us, that we are fortunate to have family and friends we can count on to help us get through difficult times. Hopefully, Thanksgiving will be more traditional this year. But it’s important that we remember the strength of spirit that binds us together as Oregonians.
In the past few days, I have worked a community dinner where 250 Thanksgiving meals were served at the Newport Senior Center. I’ve watched historic statues unveiled in Waldport and new sculptures erected in Lincoln City. I gathered with supporters of our marine reserves at the Land and Sea Symposium in Yachats. I’ve celebrated the Siletz Pow Wow. And I’ve lunched with local Chambers of Commerce. The common thread for each was volunteers working together to make our communities stronger, more vibrant, more livable, and more successful. Our wealth of volunteers is something we can all be thankful for.
Each morning, I look out my living room window to the forested hills of Otis and Devils Lake in the distance. You can see each day nature and neighbors recovering from the fires. As the seasons change, each day is different. Some are dark and brooding, some are crisp and clean, and some are shrouded in mist and mystery. Each is remarkable and beautiful and full of promise. I’m thankful to live in this special part of Oregon each and every day.
I’m thankful for the small businesses that make up the backbone of our regional economies. I’m thankful for the fisherman, the farmers, banks, and grocery store workers, the B&Bs, and the gift shops. I’m grateful for the entrepreneurs who are risking everything with little more than their experience, their creativity, and their raw economic courage to try and create something out of nothing. Small business owners are working to create a sustainable future for themselves, their families, and their employees. And as they do so, they make our communities more vibrant, more interesting, and more sustainable.
I’m thankful for our first responders in the Coast Guard, police departments, fire departments, senior care, pharmacies, and hospitals. I’m thankful for our veterans who have served or who continue to serve and to their families who share their sacrifice to secure our freedoms. I’m thankful for our researchers and scientists who seek to address the challenges of our collective future. I’m thankful for those public employees who keep everything working.
I’m thankful for everyone who helps serve, support, and protect our kids and grandkids. That certainly includes our teachers and educators who strive to prepare future generations to go out into the world and thrive.
I’m thankful for major new developments that will change our communities for the better. There is still work to do. But we have improved roads and highways, new hospitals, enhancements at our ports, new parks and plazas, and growth at the Hatfield Center which is a model for tsunami and earthquake-resistant architecture that will show every coastal city how to live safer.
And most important, I’m thankful for my remarkable wife Susan who has shared our ongoing life of adventure, building a business, traveling the world, and caring about the people and environment around her. I learn every day from Susan. I laugh with her every day. And every day I am grateful to have her in my life.
Finally, I am thankful to all of you for the great honor of allowing me to represent you. I have often observed that this is the hardest work I have ever done. It is also the most rewarding. I sincerely believe that together, we can make things better.
Susan and I wish each of you all a meaningful and memorable Thanksgiving.
After months of record revenue growth, Oregon economists now expect the state to enter a “mild” recession next summer.
State economists told a legislative panel last Wednesday that they anticipate a recession because inflation remains higher than the Federal Reserve wants it to be, and interest rates will rise as a result. That will produce a decline in housing and business investments.
There are three reasons to expect the recession to be mild. First, businesses, financial markets, and people expect inflation to slow. Second, the labor market has been so tight that employers aren’t likely to let go of workers even if their sales slow. And finally, many people still have higher savings from wage growth, stimulus payments, and limited spending during the pandemic – though those savings are concentrated in higher-income households.
Quarterly revenue forecasts are used to help plan for state income and spending. Oregon lawmakers will begin drafting the state’s next two-year budget when we convene in January. According to projections, we’ll have about $3 billion less to work with than the current two-year budget cycle.
The state will also pay out a record “kicker” tax credit in 2024, which is triggered when the state collects more in personal income taxes than it budgeted. Oregonians who paid taxes in 2022 and 2023 will receive credits totaling $3.7 billion when they file their tax returns in 2024, with larger credits for those who paid more in taxes.
Cutting budgets while also returning funds to taxpayers reflects the paradox of Oregon’s unique kicker law and also the difficulty of accurately projecting the economy two years in advance when so much of that economy is influenced by circumstances outside Oregon. Lawmakers can reduce or eliminate the tax refund with a two-thirds vote – 20 senators and 40 representatives. But such a vote seems unlikely and would require support from both Democrats and Republicans.
That said, Oregon is well-positioned to weather economic challenges with almost $1.8 billion in cash reserves. Read more here.
For more than twenty years, western portions of Highway 20 have been designated a safety corridor.
Safety corridors are stretches of state highways where fatal and serious injury traffic crash rates are higher than the statewide average for similar types of roadways. To reduce the number of these incidents, the stretch of the road is designated as a “safety corridor” and becomes subject to heightened enforcement and double fines for traffic infractions.
The good news is that the Toledo to Eddyville Safety Corridor, in place since 1999, has seen crash rates decrease to the point where the area no longer meets the standards to be designated as a safety corridor. This may be due to those major highway improvements! In early December, ODOT crews will remove the Safety Corridor and Fines Double signs for this stretch of U.S. 20.
Safety remains a top priority for this road and a project to install new signs and pavement markings is planned for Toledo Junction. More safety improvements planned include additional shoulder and centerline rumble strips in 2024, and additional curve warning upgrades planned for 2027.
The goal with any ODOT safety corridor is to have safety improve to the point where the corridor no longer qualifies for the program. We are pleased with the success seen in this corridor and hope that the crash rate through this area continues to decrease with the additional planned improvements.
With cold wet weather on the horizon, this is a good time for me to remind everyone to stay alert and drive carefully.
Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read said Wednesday he will devise a long-term plan to “decarbonize” the state’s pension fund investments and present it to the citizen’s panel that oversees those investments for review by early 2024. Read is just one of five voting members on the Oregon Investment Council, the panel that sets investment policies for a $90 billion pension fund.
Members of the Council are obligated by statute to maximize the fund’s risk-adjusted returns.
Divest Oregon, a coalition of environmental advocates, unions, and social justice groups, issued a report in April that the state had at least $5.3 billion invested in fossil fuel companies, including $1 billion in the coal industry. Those totals don’t include investments by private equity partnerships, which are exempt from disclosure and currently account for 27% of the fund’s investments.
Read said he now wants Treasury staff and outside advisors to do a far deeper dive into financial risks to the fund and its beneficiaries — some 385,000 current and former government employees. Read more here.
Friday I met with Tobias for dinner in Newport where we discussed this proposal, economic development in rural communities, better preparing Oregon students to understand personal finance and emergency preparation, and the recent election which resulted in historic changes to the Oregon legislature.
It will be a short week as we prepare for the holiday. Again, here’s wishing you a meaningful and memorable Thanksgiving.
address: 900 Court St NE, H-480, Salem, OR, 97301