Friends & neighbors,
I am proud to represent portions of Beaverton, Washington County, Aloha, and Southwest Portland in the Oregon State Senate. Below is an update as to what I’ve been up to:
We recently rolled out the concept of creating two years of community college for Oregon high school graduates at no charge. This could be transformational for thousands of Oregonians.
The driving force behind this idea is the mounting college debt faced by Oregon students and the statistical likelihood of some people moving to welfare and government services due to lack of training or education.
This proposal would allow high school graduates to take two years of community college classes to get an associate’s degree in specialized training such as welding or health care – or it would allow them to take two years of “core” credits that would be transferred to most four-year universities. Either option will help thousands of Oregon kids who, as of right now, are priced out of a higher education. To me, there’s just no viable path to the American Dream in the 21st century without some kind of technical or special training or higher education after high school.
It’s several years away from implementation, though. My goal is to pass a bill in 2014 that sets in motion a study to settle the multitude of technical details, including financing. Then, if all goes well, we would consider implementing legislation in the 2015 session.
Here are a few news stories on the plan:
- KATU: Lawmakers float idea of free community college for high school grads
- Statesman Journal: Free community college tuition
- KGW: Financing assistance for students attending help state colleges
In early October the legislature and the governor convened for a Special Session and passed a package of new laws that will significantly help Oregon schools and universities. It took days of fine-tuning and haggling, but I was proud that republicans and democrats worked together to achieve a “Grand Bargain" for Oregon at a time that the U.S. Government shut down due to partisan gridlock.
The bottom line for me is that, due to the Special Session and Grand Bargain, we now have an additional $100 Million for K-12 schools to shrink class sizes and lengthen the school year. And an additional $40 million for our colleges and universities that will cancel out tuition increases. This comes on the heels of the 2013 regular Legislative Session which resulted in a state budget that increased K-12 funding by over $1 billion over the previous state budget.
The decisions we made during the Special Session were not easy. However, as I voted, I kept in mind the end goal of securing an extra 131 teachers in Beaverton classrooms and $24.8 million extra for Beaverton schools.
I was also gratified after the end of the Special Session to see that the discussion about Oregon’s future is now focusing on reforming our tax code to make it more stable and diverse. As a long time advocate of tax reform, I look forward to working with the governor – and you – on seeing this through. This is something we must do if we want to end this constant boom and bust cycle that results in teacher layoffs, inequities and tax uncertainty.
The 2013 regular Legislative Session came to a close in July.
No session is easy, and this past one was no exception. At the end of the day, we were able to balance Oregon’s budget, achieve landmark legislation and pass thousands of big and small bills.
My highest personal priority was education and passing a state budget that significantly increased school funding; we passed a budget that boosted K-12 funding by over $1 billion – putting the K-12 budget at $6.75 billion for the next biennium. That doesn’t include the additional $100 million from the October Special Session. This reinvestment in education will help to stop constant layoffs and reduce our unacceptable class sizes. We still have much more to do, however. I was also proud of the discussion and buzz surrounding tax reform during the 2013 session– a longtime priority for me and many of you. My proposal would have cut income and property taxes by 50% and replaced them with a consumption tax. It would be revenue neutral for Oregonians. Yet it would raise nearly a billion dollars a year more by taxing tourists and people who don’t report their income. I’m not going to give up on fixing our extremely volatile tax structure. And now we have many more people exposed to the problem and the potential solutions.
My legislation sparked a statewide conversation about our broken tax code, and now we have the Governor on board and I’m looking forward to working with him for a solution next year.
As always, I'm happy to hear your feedback and to answer any questions or concerns you might have. Just send me an email or give me a call.
Thanks for the continued honor of representing you in the Oregon State Senate.