County crisis bill proposed in Salem

Legislation would let state take control of law enforcement, levy tax

Jane Stebbins / WesCom News Service /

A new piece of legislation introduced in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday could allow state officials to commandeer city police, take taxing districts’ tax revenue — and take a bite out of everyone’s paycheck to provide public safety in a county.

The proposed bill was crafted by Rep. Chris Garrett (D-Lake Oswego), chair of the Rules Committee.

House Bill 3453 states that the governor can declare a county in a state of public safety fiscal emergency and force it to enter into agreements with other entities — namely cities and local taxing districts — to consolidate revenue, personnel, equipment and other resources to provide and fund public safety services.

To declare an emergency, the governor must have unanimous consent from four legislators, the president and minority leader of the Senate and the speaker and minority leader of the House.

All of that would be overseen, most likely, by officials sent from Salem to address the fiscal problem in a county.

Another part of the bill would allow the governor to put in place a local surcharge on top of existing income taxes to keep the county functioning.

The proposed bill has Curry County Commissioner David Itzen breathing a little easier. “It’s reassuring in a sense, because I wasn’t sure they understood the severity of our situation,” Itzen said.

Brookings Mayor Ron Hedenskog thinks the bill is “a tremendous opportunity for injustice on the part of the governor.”

“This is an attempt to scare the voters into voting for the levy,” he said. “This is government in your face. I don’t want the governor stepping in; this is an intrusion into our business.”