Introduction to the 2017 Legislative Session

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Senator Alan Olsen

Hello Friends,

Introduction to the 2017 Legislative Session.

Rather than writing this newsletter before session started, I thought it would be a good idea to get the first week under our belts to see the tenor of what is to come in the future.  I am glad I waited, because what is coming is at times unbelievable.

To start, I thought I would look at the state of our State and see if there are any patterns that are evident.

First and foremost, the state budget, as developed by the Governor, is intended to increase by over 17% while income is only projected at 8.6%.  I would think that this budget would draw some skepticism, but all that is being heard around the state is we have a $1.7 Billion shortfall.  Out in the real world, we call this a bad case of overspending.  The problem is that the state has increased its’ spending by double digits since I was first elected in 2011.  If our economy was booming, that is one thing, but it is not and as we have these massive increases in spending, all the government agencies expect to get more the next budget cycle.  This is a losing proposition. I will review the tax structure in future newsletters, but just remember if you require someone else to pay their fair share, the tables could be turned- and who determines what is fair?

We need to fund schools at a level that produces highly educated graduates that can go out into the workforce without employers having to provide extra training.  This is true whether you want to be a rocket engineer or an operating engineer.  We have underfunded schools continually, but we also use the “children” as bait for many new taxes.  It hasn’t worked.  Our education system is in shambles with graduation rates at the bottom of the barrel.  Some school districts, like Oregon City, have found the solution to provide a good education at a reasonable cost.  I know they would like to have more resources, but in times of austerity they have shined a bright light on success.  They should be held up as a model to the rest of the state.

We have a transportation problem that costs Oregonians hundreds of thousands of dollars per year as they sit in perpetual traffic jams while the producers of our goods pay higher and higher shipping costs to get those goods to market.  We even lost our ability to ship out of our ports, which has increased traffic on the highways.

Yes, you are right.  It is a pretty bleak picture.  It can be improved, but it will take a bipartisan effort to bring Oregon back up to the standards Oregonians deserve.

There are proposals that would help, such as bringing in new employers that will pay family wage jobs.  We lost nine companies headquartered in our state to out of state purchasers who saw the value of these companies and realized they could be much better than they were in a different business climate.  Why did they move.  I don’t have an exact answer, but the onerous rules and regulations to operate a business in Oregon could be high on the list.  Or perhaps the 2015 mandates made them move, such as increasing the minimum wage and mandatory time off.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone should have the opportunity to make a decent wage, see my discussion on education above, but when the state steps into your business, increasing costs, employers look to other options.  This year the discussion is on prescriptive scheduling, where the employee can demand certain hours, or have 14 days of scheduling, so they can plan time off.  If you do not meet the requirements you must pay a penalty to the employee.  Think about that mandatory time off again and see how difficult it will be for employers to operate.

  We can make this state function properly again and the answer I have had since I have been a Senator is a simple four letter word, “JOBS!”  More jobs create competition for employees in the workplace.  That competition drives up wages and benefits for all workers without state intervention.  This is good for both the employee and the employer.  With larger payrolls in the state, state income taxes will increase, the economy will run like a finely tuned engine, and people will be able to afford those new houses, a larger apartment, or perhaps that new electric vehicle we all drool over.  This is what will bring us back from the edge, not taxes on coffee or on twenty-year-old cars.  “Jobs” has always been the answer and will always be the answer to a vibrant and sustainable economy.  We do have a low unemployment rate right now, but it is not to be cheered as they are lower end paying jobs, not the family wage jobs we need.  That is proven by the state mandating all the benefits employers must pay.  As stated before, many jobs bring higher wages.  North Dakota was a great example of that before the oil industry hit a downturn.  Fast-food establishments were paying as much as $20/hr.

Thank you for following my newsletter.  In future additions, I will tackle the difficult problems of Human Services, Transportation, Veterans, even a small discussion on jobs, and perhaps all the new taxes and fees in the pipeline..

Yours truly,

Senator Alan Olsen
Senate District 20

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1720
District Phone: 503-266-4599
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-425, Salem, OR 97301
District Address: 675 Northwest 2nd St., Canby, OR 97013


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Senator Olsen's Committees:

Vice Chair of Senate Committee Environment & Natural Resources
Vice Chair of Senate Committee Human Services & Early Childhood
Senate Committee on Veterans & Emergency Preparedness