By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10
Last week I shared the observation that this 2022 session would largely be about money and wisely disbursing the $2.5 billion in federal aid and unexpected state funds now available.
If we are going to build things, housing and infrastructure need to be the priority. The housing challenge is widely understood. Infrastructure, not as much so.
Across our district and the state, water storage and delivery, sewer systems, roads, bridges, and public buildings are aging out. Toledo needs to move their 20 year old “temporary” public safety building out of the tsunami zone at a cost of $4.5 million. Waldport needs to fix their wastewater system at a cost of $1.4 million. Newport is struggling to find $80 million to replace a vulnerable earthen dam. The list of needs in our cities, ports, fire districts, and water districts goes on-and-on.
So here is the challenge. How does Waldport with a population of about 2,000 people come up with $1.4 million to deal with dirty water? That’s $700 for every man, woman, and child in town. Without state help, the cost to local taxpayers is devastating.
Before the session began, my office reached out throughout the district to identify pressing needs. We prepared a list of proposed projects and submitted them to the Capital Construction Committee for review. And then when the committee met to hear proposals, we worked with community leaders to organize and present our case. You can listen to the hearing and the broad list of requests from our district and around the state here. If you do, you’ll quickly realize that we are represented more frequently and more effectively than any other region.
Almost immediately after the hearing, the House Speaker reached out to me with a game-changing request. In addition to the Capital Construction allocations, he wanted to commit $100 million more for rural infrastructure across the state. Most of these areas were represented by republicans so he would appoint three republicans and one democrat to recommend a project list. I would be the one democrat.
These will be transformational investments to improve rural communities for generations and create hundreds of good paying jobs. As our infrastructure ages, small towns are looking at big price tags to replace or repair water and sewer systems, bridges, and public buildings. Now with the state’s help and federal dollars on the way, we can bring lasting change to rural communities across our state.
Read more here.
Last session, hard work and advocacy resulted in new investments across our sprawling district. That included $14 million for the Newport Dam, water storage in Waldport, docks in Depoe Bay, the Cultural Plaza and a new D-River Welcome Center in Lincoln City, investments in the Port and swimming pool in Toledo, a new fire station in Eddyville, a cultural museum in Siletz, expansion of wildlife rehabilitation at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and funds to replace fire-damaged water and sewers in Otis. Remarkably, nearly every Lincoln County capital project proposed for 2021 was funded. Look here for more details.
Investments from the 2022 session will be announced early this week as bills funding decisions are finalized. I’ll have complete news in my next report.
As we approach adjournment, decisions are being made about housing and homelessness as well. We will commit $400 million to tackle homelessness and housing statewide.
The proposal, rolled out late last week, includes $165 million for homeless services, $215 million to build and maintain affordable housing and $20 million to improve access to homeownership. The plan also provides an additional $50 million for Project Turnkey, a statewide program administered by the Oregon Community Foundation and local community action agencies to turn defunct motels into emergency shelters.
One part of this plan is a bipartisan bill which I am proud to Chief Sponsor. The measure creates eight pilot programs to establish a statewide coordinated homeless response system. It would provide money for counties to establish centralized offices to oversee help for people living on the streets. The bill includes $1,000,000 to Lincoln County.
Housing insecurity affects families, low-income workers, and sadly, kids. Oregon has one of the highest rates of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, meaning they are sleeping outside, in a tent, or a car. In 2019, an Oregon Housing and Community Services study found that Oregon is one of four states where more than half of people (61%) experiencing homelessness don’t have access to shelter. In Lincoln County schools, one-in-five students does not have a long-term, secure place to sleep.
Here is the link to a press conference with state leaders that dives further into this issue. My own remarks begin at the 12 minute mark.
Lincoln and Tillamook Counties were facing a sudden recycling crisis with news that collection sites for electronic waste were being closed March first. Loss of five locations across the state, including two in Lincoln and one in Tillamook would mean much longer drives – up to an hour – to dispose of old televisions or computers. And of course, too much of that waste would end up hidden in trash, dumped on the roadside, or deposited in our landfills where they simply don’t belong.
Working with Representative Pam March (D-Ashland), we negotiated the late introduction of HB 4158 to fix this problem. Last Monday, I testified on the measure. Joining me were Senator Dick Anderson, Commissioner Claire Hall, Rob Thompson of Thompson Sanitary and David McCall from Tillamook Solid Waste. You can listen to the hearing here. My testimony begins at 26 minutes.
With legislation scheduled to move, the Department of Environmental Quality and its contractors came to an agreement to restore service and preserve recycling for 1 million pounds of electronic waste. That’s a victory for customers, haulers and industry managers allowing Oregon residents to continue to recycle electronic waste for free at collection sites across the state.
We’re now in the home stretch.
Most committees except for a few “lifeboat” committees have closed down. We expect to see the large end-of-session measure with funding of projects and one-time programs today or tomorrow. Ways and Means is finishing all budget adjustments and sending them to the Senate and House for final approval.
With the requirement for bills to be read word-for-word before a vote, floor sessions are scheduled for eight hours today and ten hours Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. That means I’ll likely be spending a lot of time at the podium. At that pace we can be done by the weekend. If the rule requiring reading is waived, we could be done mid-week.
I have focused this update on housing and infrastructure. But if you are interested in an overview of policy proposals, click here.
Thank you for your continuing interest in your Oregon legislature.
address: 900 Court St NE, H-480, Salem, OR, 97301