New Year, New Laws, New Budget
Happy New Year!
With the start of the new year, a number of new Oregon laws take effect. The legal age to buy tobacco has increased to 21. Self-service gas is allowed in counties with populations under 40,000. You can black-out your address on automobile insurance documents so someone breaking into your car can’t find your home. Purchasers of nitrous oxide canisters must be 18 or older.
School districts will begin to screen for risk factors for reading difficulties, including dyslexia. Oregon-born people experiencing homelessness can get free birth certificates to allow them to apply for jobs or school. And companies with more than 10 employees must offer their staff at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.
Those are the big “policy” bills. But your legislature also makes hundreds of budget decisions that affect the daily lives of Oregonians.
By close of session, about 750 measures passed. I’d like to begin the year reviewing seven – particularly fiscal choices – that I worked on and that I think will make an impact in our district.
Rep. Gomberg Carries a Bill on the House Floor
Increased Funding for Small Business: Imagine the headlines if a company came to Oregon and created 1000 new jobs. That’s exactly what our Small Business Development Network does with free counseling and support for new and growing enterprises. They support thousands of entrepreneurs and created thousands of new local jobs. And as part of our 19 Community Colleges, they do it in every part of the state!
Our SBDCs are the best bang-for-the-buck investment the state makes in small business. As co-chair of the Transportation and Economic Development budgeting committee, I worked through the 2017 session to significantly increase that small investment.
“The additional funding received from the state SBDC network due to the efforts of Representative Gomberg last year has allowed Tillamook Bay Community College to hire a full-time SBDC Director for the first time in years. Having a full-time Director to serve all of Tillamook County will help businesses receive many more services and be more successful, which will directly benefit the county economy.” –Ross Tomlin, President, Tillamook Bay Community College
“On behalf of the 164 Lincoln County business owners who received no-cost business advising services during 2017 from the Oregon Coast Community College SBDC, and the 522 who attended one or more business training workshops we presented throughout the year, I’d like to let Rep. Gomberg know how much our organization, and the businesses we serve, appreciate his efforts.” –Dave Price, Director, Oregon Coast Community College Small Business Development Center
Reps. David Brock Smith, David Gomberg, and Caddy McKeown Discuss Legislation on the House Floor
Debt Collection: I’ve been on a mission these past few years to improve how we collect monies owed by Oregonians to Oregon. That includes:
• $800 million owed to the Department of Revenue in taxes reported but not paid.
• $370 million owed to the Department of Justice, mostly for unpaid child support.
• $160 Million owed to the Employment Division for either unpaid employment taxes or over paid benefits.
• $1.6 Billion (with a “B”!) owed to the Judicial Branch for unpaid criminal restitution.
We made real progress this year. The Department of Revenue spent an unprecedented ten days in front of my committee answering questions and refining priorities. Legislation now consolidates debt owed by an individual to multiple state agencies into one office, where they can all be addressed simultaneously. Annual reporting to the legislature on agencies’ debt collection success are now required. We’re going after debt owed by firms that do business with the state. We simplified garnishments and the attachment of tax refunds. And we required that any debt written off be discharged according to published criteria. Most important, we resolved to take the issue more seriously.
“We will streamline our debt collection process and we will centralize it at the Department of Revenue to ensure the state isn’t leaving any money on the table. I want to acknowledge Representative David Gomberg who has worked tirelessly to support our efforts to improve debt collection.” –Governor Kate Brown
Pay Equity: Oregon has passed the most sweeping statewide equal pay law in the nation. The median American white woman working full-time makes an average of 82 cents for every dollar in comparison to what a white man earns, and the gap is even starker for women of color. That is plain wrong!
The new law will prohibit paying wages or other compensation to any employee at a rate greater than the wages you pay to employees of a protected class for work of a comparable character. Significantly, it does more than simply cover pay differences between men and women. Ten different “protected classes” are shielded from unequal pay systems: Race, Color, Sex, Religion, Sexual orientation, National origin, Marital status, Veteran status, and Disability.
Under Oregon’s Equal Pay Act of 2017, asking about past salary history is now prohibited (although nothing stops you from asking people what salary they’re looking for). You can also put the job’s salary range in your ad and ensure you are attracting candidates best suited for your organizational budget.
“This new legislation for equitable and nondiscriminatory pay for all is a big step for social equity. It will beneficially impact service workers’ pay in our coastal tourism economies and equal pay will be a reality regardless of gender, race, religion, disability, nationality, veteran status, color or sexual orientation. Central Oregon Coast NOW applauds this supportive legislation for the good of individuals and families.” –Sheila Swinford, President, Central Oregon Coast NOW
Rep. David Gomberg and Rep. Mike McClain Confer on House Floor
Veterans: Oregonians voiced their support last November for Measure 96 and increased support for our Oregon Veterans. But someone had to make the budget choices to actually implement that directive. The work fell to my Ways and Means Sub-Committee.
Seven of ten Oregon vets are not enrolled in our veterans support systems, and do not receive the benefits they have earned, deserve, and often sorely need. Many, sadly, struggle with homelessness, joblessness, and health or mental-health concerns. Whether veterans are starting a business or buying a home or need hearing aids, help is available. By end of session, we had allocated over $29 million in new funds, nearly tripling programs for education, outreach, and support.
“The infusion of this money will make a huge difference in our ability to serve veterans in Lincoln County. Thanks to this funding, we’re planning a significant increase in our north county presence, and are making plans to relocate the main Veterans Service office in Newport that will allow us to offer expanded services to all vets.” –Bill Hall, Lincoln County Commissioner
Education: My colleagues and I secured an 11% increase in the K-12 school budget this year – the largest in Oregon’s history! But the increase is still not enough.
We still remain nearly three weeks behind the national average in teaching days. Oregon’s high-school graduation rate is the third worst in the country. Thousands of teens drop out of high school every year. And standardized test scores show that the percentage of Oregon students meeting educational benchmarks adopted by several states has declined in the past year.
We must continue to support a quality public education system for every Oregonian from cradle-to-career. That means investing in early childhood programs, reducing class sizes and improving graduation rates at K-12 schools, making community colleges and universities more affordable, and supporting the expansion of modern career-technical education and vocational training. We all have a stake in student success and must work together to support schools, find the money they need, and ensure it is well and constructively spent.
“Our staff does great work continuing to improve student outcomes on very tight budgets. The truth is we are seeing a larger percentage of students who have special needs and these students are more expensive to educate…This means that a larger percentage of our budget is going to provide resources to provide a good education for special needs students.” –Steven Sugg, Superintendent, Sheridan School District
“I am grateful for all the work that has brought more money to Schools. Coming back from retirement and comparing the financial status for K-12 from the State… I am optimistic for the future. My hope is that as the legislature continues this good piece of work that it will also look at the restrictions and limits that are causing our current condition… more money going into the same “system” will only get the same results we have always gotten. Are we a ‘State School system’ or are we a ‘State system of schools’?” —Tom Rinearson, Superintendent, Lincoln County School District
Keeping Health Care: Keeping Health Care: When planned Federal reductions in Medicaid payments left one-in-four Oregonians with reduced or no health care coverage (including 400,000 children), the legislature approved a bipartisan plan to increase assessments on hospitals, health care providers, and health insurance providers. And because good health care costs less than emergency care, those being asked to pay more supported the proposal. These changes are expected to net over $5 billion in federal matching dollars. And they should actually reduce insurance premiums for those of us who have insurance since uninsured emergency care costs are passed along to the rest of us.
Petitions were circulated and this measure has now been referred to Oregonians for consideration at an election this January.
Lincoln County has approximately 13 percent of its population on the insurance programs. Yamhill County has 9.6 percent of its population enrolled in the health plans. And in Tillamook County the number is 11.5 percent. —The Oregonian, November 30, 2017
“No matter where you live or work, you should be able to see a doctor or nurse and get medication when you’re sick. You deserve regular check-ups to stay healthy. And it shouldn’t bankrupt you.” —Dr. Lesley Ogden, CEO of Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital; David Burke, CEO Adventist Health; and State Representative David Gomberg. Guest Opinion, January, 2018
Transportation: People are driving less and using more fuel-efficient vehicles. This is great news! But we have historically paid for roads and bridges with gasoline taxes, and our changing habits have put our infrastructure at risk. This year, bipartisan legislation was passed to raise needed resources to sustain and improve our aging transportation network.
It includes increased fees on fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles, gasoline taxes, taxes on bicycles to pay for bike lanes, and the potential to toll interstate bridges. The money is needed for large congestion-relieving projects, bridge repairs, and seismic improvements. Half the money goes directly to local cities and counties to use on their highest priority needs. Look for improvements at a pothole near you soon!
Local disbursements annually of new transportation dollars:
Depoe Bay: $36K Toledo: $88K
Falls City: $24K Waldport: $53K
Lincoln City: $214K Lincoln County: $1.4M
Sheridan: $154K Tillamook County: $905K
Siletz : $31K Yamhill County: $2.7K
Lincoln County Transit District: $804K
Tillamook County Transit District: $452K
Yamhill County Transit District: $1.7M
Marine Dredging and Derelict Vessel Removal: $250K
“The transportation package provides critically needed funds that will enable our county to improve the maintenance of our local roads and bridges. Transportation and infrastructure are a vital part of our growing local economy providing for more jobs, better paying family-wage jobs and a healthy county business environment.” –Doug Hunt, Lincoln County Commissioner
That’s a rundown of the big new things coming out of Salem in the new year. As always, if you have any question, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to send me an email!
Rep. David Gomberg