Balancing state budget is the most important challenge

People are quick to voice their feelings on some bills pending in the legislature, said State Senator Doug Whitsett in a town hall meeting in Eagle Point, pointing to over 200 emails in a day regarding criminalizing dredging in the Rogue. On the other hand, when it comes to the budget that same vigor is non existent noted both Senator Whitsett and Representative Mike McLane.

Whitsett said there were three things the legislature needs to do this session: Balance the budget, stretch the tax dollars and eliminate barriers to help create jobs. Instead, time (which is money) is being spent on such things as a bill to license horses and on a horse tripping billl, which he said had not even been done in Oregon for 15 years. And, there is the bill that would raise the regulations on the amount of space egg producers need for each laying hen. That bill would put the three egg producing businesses in Oregon out of business.

“I’m learning seniority matters,” said Rep. McLane who has been officially in the position for four weeks. “There are 60 Representatives and my parking space in number 60.”  McLane pointed out, however, that the first bill he introduced passed with no opposition. It was a bill to acknowledge Eagle Point’s Centennial, co-sponsored by Sen.Whitsett. The Eagle Point mayor and any others interested are invited to attend the official signing of that bill when the date is announced.

McLane said with over 3,000 bills introduced, the public should not trust that any legislative member can be up on every bill. However, he urged residents to email their concerns, support or non-support on various issues. He wants to get government out of the way of business, see a reform in the capital gains tax and noted there are several bills to revise PERS

Whitsett said there is a shift in funding in General Fund items, from the state to local communities. One of the things he has been able to do is to get the audit committee operating once again.

Both Whitsett and McLane said they believed Wisconsin Governor Walker has the right attitude, but neither think Oregon will go as far as Walker has.  “I don’t think Oregon has the will to change,”said McLane.

While California is being vocal about their financial crisis, Whitsett pointed out that  California has a person debt of $600, Oregon’s per person debt now stands at $1,000. And continual bonding only puts off the inevitable.

Both Whitsett and McLane oppose HB 2700 (LNG issue). Whitsett said he is a proponent of using our own gas. McLane seemed to feel the bill might pass.

Both members are opposed to the elimination of Education Service Districts. However, they do feel there could  be some reduction in school districts, such as Klamath City and Klamath County,.

Several audience members asked what they could do and how spending could be stabilized or change made. Groups such as Americans for Prosperity and the TEA party were mentioned.

McLane said people  now have to be convinced to give up what the government used to give away.

An unidentified audience member was quite vocal  telling Whitsett and McLane they made too much money. She apparently also disliked the educational system and definitely advocated for homeschooling. Whitsett told the audience member Oregon senators receive $1,800 a month, although it was unsure she heard him as she continued to target a myriad of things.

McLane said he would be willing to give up 10 percent of that salary if teachers would do the same. He also questioned the education needed to be a superintendent of a school district, believing a colonel or major could do the job and mentioned a major district in Washington state that had superintendent without all the education credentials.

On the subject of education and teachers, Whitsett said he has a problem where there are teachers that do not work.

The town hall was held at the Eagle Point Library community room which was filled to capacity. It was the first town hall for Whitsett and McLane this session. They both urged people to contact them via email.  Form letters are generally trashed and phone calls are discouraged unless  it can’t be handled any other way, because of the staffing time and, like other places, they have small staffs.

Saturday morning about the same size crowd, with different concerns, greeted Sen. Whitsett and Rep. McLane at Rogue River Lodge.

According to URI reporter, Christy Pitto who covered the event in Trail, there were no questions about water or the pipeline from audience members. They did express interest in seeing if there was a way to obtain a crosswalk on Hwy. 62 and to learn if there thoughts on how Shady Cove could “push back” against upcoming stricter DEQ regulations.

When asked if either legislative member felt Oregon would enact a sales tax, neither felt that would be a solution. A citizen interrupted McLane asking with a decided “tone”, saying “Aren’t you misguided on sales tax ? Don’t we actually have a sales tax? “ (via taxes on food stuffs). Without missing a beat, McLane replied with humor, “Based on your tone, I probably am misguided.” That brought the house down and took the wind out of the questioner’s sails and ended the town hall, said Pitto.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent


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