What we must do to improve Oregon's future


Published Apr 30, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

As the weather begins to warm, Bachelor begins to thaw and signs of spring are all around us, it’s hard for me to believe that this legislative session is already half over.

We have reached the midpoint in the legislative session, and a great deal remains to be accomplished.

If we’re going to move this state forward, then we need to address all of our challenges. We need to make sure everyone who wants a job has an opportunity to get a good job, we must hold government accountable and we must fully fund education so that our youngest generation has an opportunity at their American dream.

Few parts of Oregon have been hit worse by this recession than Central Oregon. With nearly one in 10 of our neighbors still unable to find a job, the status quo is unacceptable. Consistent high unemployment deserves more effort from legislative leadership. Many legislators have proposed bills to allow Salem to step back and let small businesses thrive and to do what they do best, create jobs. I am concerned that the Senate leadership doesn’t appear to want to take any action on these job-creating bills that unemployed Oregonians are desperate for. I won’t give up until my jobs bills and others like this are passed.

Central Oregonians deserve no more politics as usual, no more politics of division, no more class warfare. They want a government that works with them, not against them. Since before the start of the 2013 legislative session, the reform of PERS has been a priority for many schools and local municipalities. Even with increases to their overall budgets, the price tag on PERS has forced them to make significant cuts in education, health and public safety. I want to solve the crisis with real reforms and help with job creation. We must do better for our children, seniors, police and firefighters. PERS is a titanic problem. It is a sinking ship that needs to be rescued. Passing only Senate Bill 822 says to kids and their parents, seniors and Oregon’s most vulnerable that we don’t have room in the lifeboat for you. This is unacceptable. We must pass real, meaningful PERS reform.

On a brighter note, my legislation to combat those who would game and cheat the state of Oregon’s Medicaid program has passed the Senate and is now awaiting action in the House. Senate Bill 753 brings the latest in fraud-fighting technology to the state’s Medicaid program through mathematic algorithms and presents a serious effort to combat the nearly $18 billion that is lost nationally to Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse.

We can’t be content just resolving the issues of today. We must make sure that we leave even greater opportunities for the next generation, and that starts with fully funding education. Tough budget conditions and a crushing PERS obligation have decimated school districts throughout the state. In their wake, shorter school years and larger class sizes remain. We must do better.

It’s halftime in Salem, and our biggest policy battles still remain unsettled, but opportunities still exist for us in the second half. Our work is not done. Not by a long shot. Republicans have been at the table of bipartisanship all session, and if the Democrat leadership agrees to join us, the session could be one of Oregon’s finest. As John Wayne said, “It’s time for us to saddle up.”