Despite shortfall in budget, lawmakers notch some wins
With the 2017 Legislative session over, I wanted to be sure to share with you some of the highlights, reflect on our many victories, and extend an invitation to continue collaborating on issues impacting our community and the entire State of Oregon.
It is no secret that when we arrived at the Capitol in February, Oregon was facing a $1.8 billion budget shortfall that, if ignored, would have resulted in catastrophic cuts to some of the services Oregonians rely on the most — health care, human services and education. I'm proud that I was able to work with my colleagues to pass a budget that incorporates investments in maintaining these critical services, while also making targeted and prudent budget decisions that helped us to close the budget shortfall. While, I'm proud of our success, I recognize that having to address this size of a budget shortfall during an economic boom is an indicator of Oregon's need to address our structural revenue issues, and I look forward to working on this issue again in future legislative sessions.
In addition to balancing the budget, there were also historic investments that we made in preserving and modernizing our transportation system across Oregon. As part of HB 2017, the transportation package, we secured $1.3 million for infrastructure and street maintenance to be completed in the city of Tigard and close to $100 million for projects, which will ease congestion on Highway 217. Additionally, the transportation package invests $10 million in Safe Routes to School to ensure that our kids continue to have accessible and safe routes to get to and from our local schools. The transportation package also included $2 million for improvements on Capitol Highway from Barbur to Multnomah. These are critical investments that will have vital impacts on our community, and I was happy we secured these victories.
As a former teacher, education has always been a top priority for me in the Legislature. I had the honor of serving again this session as the chair of the House Education Committee, and I'm happy to report the strides we made for our students in Oregon. This session, we passed a K-12 education budget 11 percent larger than the previous budget and invested $170 million in career and technical training, which will help us to ensure that our youngest Oregonians get a strong start in our schools. I was also honored to be chief sponsor of House Bill 2648, which allows local school districts to access state funds to hire school social workers to support students and to address chronic absenteeism. I am proud we could make investments in education this session and pass student supports that will help ensure a bright future for our kids.
One of my favorite parts of serving in the Oregon Legislature is the opportunity to help turn the great ideas of my constituents into laws that will help improve the lives of Oregonians. This session, I was honored to work with a constituent to help pass HB 3160, which removes bureaucratic barriers and allows individual with limited vision to use a white cane to help get around public places. Some of the best ideas for laws come from constituents, and I encourage you to reach out to me if you ever have an idea for a law or an issue that you would like addressed.