Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
from Senator Whitsett June 30, 2005 73rd Session, Issue 12
As the end of session begins to draw near, I thought I would provide a brief reminder of some of the important issues still on the table and where I stand.
K-12 Funding—As almost everyone knows, the two sides are a mere $50 million apart. That makes any strident statement about one plan or the other a little moot. I think there are two important points that can be made at this point. First, I believe that all of our critical services, including K-12 education as well as senior services, public safety and community colleges need to receive all that we can afford to give. In addition, I have spent the session trying to ensure that the dollars spent on our budget sheets translate into dollars spent for the people that these programs purport to serve. Second, I am for more action and less posturing. The $50 million that now keeps the two sides apart is certainly not an unbridgeable gap. The main problem is that if they buckled down and negotiated a compromise, there would be nobody here to posture for because our work would be done. The time has come to lay bare politics aside and work together to finish the people’s business. We owe you that.
Senate Bill 71 “Connect Oregon”—This important piece of transportation legislation moved over to the House and received its first hearing just yesterday. This bill would authorize the issuance of lottery bonds in order to fund non-highway transportation projects around the state. This is an important measure designed to improve the infrastructure and economy of our entire state. Two critical aspects of this legislation were negotiated here in the Senate and must be maintained in the House. First, the funds are required to be distributed throughout the state by Congressional district. This would ensure that rural Oregon transportation projects get a fair share of the resources provided by this bill. It also keeps the bill from becoming the “Connect Portland” bill rather than the “Connect Oregon” bill. Second, the legislation calls for some of the projects to be funded by loans and others by grants. This aspect is designed to create a perpetual fund that will continue as loans are paid back rather than a one-time shot. I cannot say enough good things about what this bill will do for the connectivity of our state and the health of our economy both in the urban and rural parts of our state.
Senate Bill 1000—What can be said on this issue that has not already been said. I believe that the bill merely proposes marriage by another name, which is certainly not what Oregon voters wanted when they passed Measure 36. In order to support this bill one must believe that the voters intended for Measure 36 to be nothing more than a semantic statement. I outright reject that idea. I have been, and continue to be supportive of reciprocal benefits, which would grant certain important rights to two unmarried adults in a dependant relationship and would not be based on sexual orientation. If you would like more information on this idea please let my office know and we will send you a short brief on the issue.
There are some other important issues that are still working through the process. At this point their future is a little hazy. Though some action is likely to be taken on Measure 37 implementation, exactly what that will be is difficult to say. I am also still working diligently to get some rate-shock protection passed for Klamath irrigators. This issue has become a political pawn and I regret that, but all we can do is continue along the avenues that are open to us. I will keep you posted.
Finally, one great note is that yesterday the Senate passed House Bill 2754, or as we have begun calling it, “The OIT bill.” This bill will create the Oregon Center for Health Professions to be housed and administered by Oregon Institute of Technology. This is a small but important bill that will allow OIT to create partnerships with other schools in the state. OIT expects that with these expanded partnerships they will be able to double the number of students they can admit within five years. OIT did not come to Salem and ask for more money. All they sought is our endorsement of their admirable efforts in this area. I was especially pleased to see this bill passed and hope to continue to see great things from OIT and all of our community colleges.
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