By Richard Donovan, legislative specialist
The OSBA legislative team has been traveling around Oregon to attend legislative receptions and listen to community concerns.
Legislative receptions give parents, educators and other members of the community a chance to discuss issues with local legislators in a relaxed and informal setting. OSBA Executive Director Jim Green, Interim Director of Legislative Services Lori Sattenspiel, and Legislative Services Specialist Richard Donovan attended several forums this past week and joined in the conversations.
|Discussion at the Central Oregon K-12 Legislative Forum in Redmond on Jan. 18 focused on anticipated budget negotiations during the upcoming legislative session.|
First was the Central Oregon K-12 Legislative Forum on Jan. 18, held at the High Desert ESD in Redmond. Sen. Tim Knopp (R- Bend), Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) and Rep. Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) attended. Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) and Rep. John Huffman (R-The Dalles) joined by phone.
The conversation focused largely on the impending legislative session, specifically on anticipated budget negotiations. All legislators agreed they expect this session will be difficult. The state faces at least a $1.8 billion shortfall to fund at current service levels, and the Republican members expect contentious negotiations with the Democratic majority around revenue and Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) reform.
Ferrioli was clear, saying, “PERS reform isn’t optional.”
McLane agreed, saying he was “ready to make a deal for the greater good” but that deal had to include PERS reform and other cost-control mechanisms. All members also agreed they wanted to see the State School Fund allocation be at least $8.4 billion and that funding for rural schools and communities would continue to be a priority.
The Oregon Association of School Business Officials has estimated that the state needs to spend at least $8.4 billion to maintain current service levels. Gov. Kate Brown’s budget proposes $8.0 billion for K-12 education. The legislative co-chairs’ budget framework offers even less, $7.8 billion.
The Eastern Oregon Education Forum at Grant Union Junior/Senior High School in John Day followed on Jan. 24. Ferrioli, Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Pendleton) and Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) attended.
|Legislators at the Jan. 24 Eastern Oregon Education Forum in John Day expressed concern that the upcoming session will be challenging.|
The assembled legislators all expressed concern that the upcoming session was going to be contentious, saying that generally the Republicans in both the House and Senate chambers were willing to discuss new revenue sources but that any discussions about revenue had to be paired with specific cost-control proposals.
Bentz discussed the dire need for “bending the cost curve.”
Ferrioli talked about the need for specific policy proposals from the Governor, Senate president and speaker of the House. “We need a transportation package … a PERS reform package … we need solutions.”
Last on the tour was the regional education legislative meeting hosted by Linn Benton Lincoln ESD on Jan. 25. Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), Sen. Lee Beyer (D- Springfield), Rep. Phil Barnhart (D-Eugene) and Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) attended the forum. Discussion was lively.
Attendees included a number of school board members and administrators from the region, who wasted no time in asking the legislators about plans to address PERS liability, the projected State School Fund shortfall, and potential for revenue reform. The legislators expressed concern that, due to the restrictions around enacting new tax laws and the potential for ballot referral, they could have real trouble getting adequate funding for the various costs anticipated in the next biennium. The legislators also expressed concern that the upcoming session was going to be challenging.
“Right now we’re in Oregon’s best economy since World War II,” Beyer said, “and the worst budget in that time.” He said that is the basic reason he “expects a hard session.”
Receptions hosted by both Washington County and Clackamas County school board members were canceled by ice and snow. The OSBA team hopes the meetings can be rescheduled and looks forward to attending future meetings.
|Ron Gallinat (right), Bend-La Pine School Board member, takes the opportunity to meet with Sen. Tim Knopp at the Jan. 18 legislative forum in Redmond.|
|Rep. Mike McLane (left) speaks with Dr. Doug Nelson, OSBA past president and High Desert ESD board member, during the Redmond forum Jan. 18.|