A prudent plan for schools


Representative Tina Kotek
D-North/NE Portland
District 44

Phone: 503-986-1444    900 Court St. NE, H-269, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: rep.tinakotek@state.or.us     Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/kotek

Dear Friends and Neighbors,


While much of my time is focused on the big issues around the budget, I enjoy supporting the variety of other bills that come before us every day on the floor. Yesterday, for example, we passed a bill that helps all of us remember an important part of our nation’s history and the people who served our country. We passed a resolution HCR 23 honoring “atomic veterans” – veterans who served during the Cold War and were unknowingly exposed to high levels of radiation. This exposure is known to have increased these veterans’ risk for more than twenty different types of cancers, and regrettably many died before they were able to claim any medical benefits from their service.  As the daughter of a Korean War veteran, I have great admiration for the sacrifices of these servicemen.


A fiscally prudent PERS plan to help stabilize our schools

This morning, the Joint Ways and Means Committee passed out Senate Bill 822, a proposal the committee’s Co-Chairs introduced to find a balanced approach to funding public schools and addressing the shortfalls in the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) caused by the Wall Street crash of 2008. The stock market crash caused a loss of 27% of the PERS system’s value.   SB 822 allows us to save some money in the PERS system that can then be invested in public schools and other services. While the plan affects all retirees, the proposal protects the pensions of low and middle income retirees by implementing a tiered reduction in cost of living adjustments (COLAs) based on retirement income.

I believe the Co-Chairs proposal reflected in SB 822 is the most likely to be legal, most fair, and most fiscally responsible plan to reform the PERS system that has been introduced this session.

This proposal requires retirees to help solve a problem they didn’t cause. It’s a sacrifice by people who have worked very hard in service to our state – teachers, police officers, firefighters, social workers, and other middle-class workers who worked long and hard for the promise of a secure retirement. While I believe we’ve found a compromise plan that protects them from the harsher attacks proposed by other groups, it is undeniable that they will be making a large sacrifice for the greater good as we begin to turn the corner to stabilize and reinvest in our public schools and other vital services.

The only way we can get to the $6.75 billion stabilization investment for our schools is if we ask everyone to contribute. In the coming weeks we will be rolling out a plan to cut back spending on tax breaks. There is no reason we should continue spending that benefits the wealthy and corporations if that money could otherwise go to schools. And there’s no reason we should continue spending on tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations while we’re asking for give-backs from middle-class workers and retirees.

By passing a reasonable plan to scale back tax break spending and adjust PERS, we can budget $1 billion more for schools and finally put the brakes on the massive teacher layoffs and shorter school years that communities have suffered through for the last five years.


Standing up for consumers

On Tuesday, we passed House Bill 3160, which gives consumers important tools to protect themselves against fraud or other unlawful practices by insurance companies. Currently, insurance companies are exempted from Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. That act gives consumers the ability to pursue damages or permits the Attorney General to take legal action for consumers who have been wronged.

I came into this session determined to stand up for average Oregonians fighting against Wall Street banks and big corporations. This was an important step in tipping the scales a little bit, in favor of middle-class Oregonians.


Improving access to higher education, strengthening our economy

This week we saw two important steps to improve access to higher education and strengthen Oregon’s workforce. The first was on Tuesday, when Governor Kitzhaber signed House Bill 2787, the Tuition Equity bill. Legislators from both parties joined the Governor to celebrate the signing of the bill into law. At the signing, an inspiring first-year university student from Eugene who was brought to the U.S. when she was one year old told described how Tuition Equity will bring hope to thousands of aspiring college students.

On Thursday, the House passed House Bill 2970. This bill will make it easier for Oregon students to transfer college credits between community colleges and four-year universities, particularly for engineering students. We’ve been doing a lot of work focused on bringing down higher education costs and improving the ease of transferring course credits, and this work will pay dividends for students and for our economy for years to come.


Job fair April 30 at PCC Cascade

 Here’s a great upcoming opportunity for job seekers. On Tuesday, April 30, many area employers will be on hand at the 16th Annual Cascade Job Fair set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Physical Education Building, Portland Community College Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth Street.

Among the employers represented at this year’s fair will be AAA Oregon/Idaho, Colonial Life, Hoffman Construction Company, Kaiser Permanente, KGW Media Group, New Seasons Market, OnPoint Community Credit Union, Portland Fire & Rescue, Portland General Electric, Safeway, Self Enhancement Inc., and Xerox, to name a few. Attendees are encouraged to dress as if they are going to a job interview and to show up early.

The job fair, sponsored by Brooks Staffing and OregonLive.com, will feature free workshops in Cascade’s Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building. They include: “Résumé writing” with corporate recruiter Kristina Turney of Crowd Compass (11:30 a.m., Room 215), “Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies” author Joshua Waldman (12:30 p.m., Auditorium), “Contracts & Copyrights: What Makers Need to Know” (1:30 p.m., Room 215), “Interviewing tips from Toastmasters” (2 p.m., Auditorium) and “Work for Yourself or Work for Someone Else: Small Business Tips” (2:30 p.m., Room 215).

For more information, call (971) 722-5613, or visit www.pcc.edu/cascadejobfair.


As always, it is a pleasure to represent you.

Best wishes,


State Representative Tina Kotek

Speaker of the House

House District 44