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Unger, Gallegos talk schools, seniors

State Reps. Joe Gallegos and Ben Unger met with constituents of their respective legislative districts Saturday in an unusual locale — a coffee shop.

About 30 people gathered at 10 a.m. around two large tables at Insomnia Coffee on West Baseline Road in Hillsboro to hear from the two Democratic representatives, while the other half of the room seemed oblivious to the fact that two legislators were in the house.

In his opening remarks, Gallegos said he planned to introduce a pair of what he termed “priority bills” when a short (maximum of 35 days) legislative session gets under way Feb. 3. One bill is geared to help low-income kids get into community colleges and trade curriculums, and the other would set up a court-appointed special advocate program focused on stopping abuse of senior citizens.

“Those are the two we’re putting in, one to support schools and the other to support seniors,” Gallegos said.

Unger also planned to present two bills for priority action in the upcoming session in Salem.

“I want to give school districts a voice on tax abatement decisions so schools have the opportunity to keep more of the money taxpayers decide to give them,” he said.

His other priority is to produce a consumer protection bill. He said he was specifically targeting contracts that include clauses in which the person signing the deal gives up any rights to sue the company they are entering into a deal with.

“That’s not fair,” Unger said.

Unger added that he wanted to set up a system to give school districts more of a voice when it comes to setting aside Gain Share funds.

“The goal is to set up a system that meets the true spirit of why Gain Share was created,” he explained.

Gain Share is a program that returns some state income tax revenue to participating local governments that provide incentives for local businesses to hire more workers or expand their infrastructure in exchange for breaks in the company’s property taxes.

Gallegos expressed support for Unger’s Gain Share plan.

“The way we give away tax dollars needs more oversight,” Gallegos said.

Citizens attending the forum brought up a series of issues, including, for example, school overcrowding, raising the minimum wage and the need for more low-income housing options, hoping to gain support from the representatives.

Both Unger and Gallegos expressed support for an increase in the minimum wage as well as efforts to increase the availability of housing for lower income residents.

“I’d love to sponsor a bill like that, to raise the minimum wage,” Gallegos said, “and I’d like to see a housing initiative to look at housing needs throughout the state.”




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