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Senator speaks in Tigard on Friday and also touts bills for first-time homebuyers, renters.

TIMES PHOTO: DANA HAYNES - Ron Wyden greets members of the Westside Economic Alliance, after speaking to the group Friday morning. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden spoke in Tigard on Friday, saying it probably is too late to protect against interference in the national elections in November. He also introduced two new bills aimed at helping first-time homebuyers and middle-income renters.

Wyden spoke at the Westside Economic Alliance meeting, Friday, Aug. 31.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wyden said he has been worried about the sanctity of the nation's elections systems ever since the revelation of widespread interference by Russian intelligence agencies in the 2016 elections.

Wyden has been pushing for laws that would mandate paper ballots and robust post-election auditing systems, which could hunt for election interference.

Oregon's vote-by-mail system offers both, he said. "Oregonians shouldn't have to wait for the rest of the nation to catch up."

Wyden said it's too late now for any measures to take effect before the Nov. 6 nationwide elections, and he put the blame squarely on President Donald Trump.

"There's no question in my mind, if (the) president wanted to do something about election security, there's a lot we could do by this election," he said.

Instead, he pointed to Trump's comments casting doubt on Russian interference in elections. And in May, the White House eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council.

"The Russians are like burglars," Wyden said. "They're at the doors, at the windows, knocking, seeing what's open, looking for places to penetrate."

He said 40 million Americans will go to the polls on Nov. 6 with voting machines that offer no paper trail for auditing purposes.

Wyden also took time Friday to tout two bills, introduced Aug. 22, that would create new tax credits to help first-time homebuyers and middle-income renters.

"Tax bills aren't going anywhere between now and the election," he admitted, saying he introduced the bills this summer to get the conversation rolling in the Senate next year.

The first bill would address increasing housing costs by providing first-time homebuyers up to a $10,000 refundable tax credit. This credit would equal 2.5 percent of a home purchase with the maximum credit reached at homes selling for $400,000, which is below the median home price in Portland.

The second bill would create a middle-income housing tax credit aimed at sparking the development of rental homes affordable to people with moderate incomes. The bill builds on the LIHTC — low-income housing tax credit — model, but focusing on middle-income renters. It would allocate funds to states based on population, focusing on states that have statewide housing authorities, and following a competitive process to allocate the tax credits to developers for individual new construction projects or rehabilitations.

"A couple — a cop and a nurse — with two incomes can't afford to buy that first home. We've got to do something about that," he said.

Both proposals also would help address issues of homelessness, he predicted.

Wyden has been a supporter of the LIHTC model, which he said has financed 3 million affordable homes nationwide, including 40,000 in Oregon, since its inception in 1986. He has also championed efforts to strengthen and expand the low-income housing tax credit this Congress.

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