Lake Oswego resident Andrea Salinas was sworn in Monday morning as the new state representative for Oregon House District 38. She was appointed to the position last week in a unanimous vote by commissioners from Multnomah and Clackamas counties.
Salinas, 47, is taking over for former State Rep. Ann Lininger, who won re-election to the seat last November but resigned in August after being appointed to a judgeship on the Clackamas County Circuit Court. Salinas will serve out the remainder of Lininger's term, which runs through 2018.
Salinas was chosen from a roster of candidates nominated by the Democratic Party of Oregon. During the nomination race, she emphasized her previous experience working in the Legislature as a lobbyist for Democratic causes, and called for the Legislature to aggressively push forward to solve issues such as health care and affordable housing.
In this exclusive interview with The Review, Salinas talks about those and other issues, as well as her priorities and expectations as she transitions to her new role in Salem.
Here's what she had to say:
Q: You're no stranger to Oregon's Legislature, but this will be your first time serving there as an elected lawmaker rather than as a consultant or lobbyist. In what ways do you expect your role to change now? How will your past experience affect your approach?
A: First and foremost, I will be the one pushing the "aye" or "nay" button. While I can advocate on behalf of the causes I care about and understand the details of the bills, I'm the one who will have to weigh the merits of the policy and I will be held accountable for my vote. Ultimately, I am here to serve the people of House District 38.
I believe I have a lot of knowledge and insight into how various legislators think about issues and what's important to them and their districts. I believe I was able to work fairly well with legislators on both sides of the aisle as an advocate, to listen to their needs, and to have them listen to mine. I'll take a similar approach as a legislator.
Q: During a public forum event in the HD38 race, you called the failure of House Bill 2004 "the biggest disappointment of the session." Do you hope to see the Legislature immediately return to the issue of renters' rights and other housing-related concerns when it reconvenes? What will you do to make sure those issues are not left hanging?
A: I had a conversation with a Beaverton School District employee who conveyed a story about children who take the MAX out to Gresham at night because it's one of the few cities that have open shelter beds. The children then return to Beaverton in the early hours of the morning when their parents get off their night shifts, only to clean themselves in the bathrooms at school.
This issue is only getting worse for children and families. We need to return to this issue to figure out how to solve the problem of no-cause evictions. I will be a new voice, and I hope to reach out to some of my colleagues in both chambers to attempt to bring relief to all Oregon families. I'll also work with advocates to see if there are additional solutions that we didn't propose last time that might provide some interim relief.
Q: You repeatedly emphasized the importance of health care throughout your campaign, and expressed support for a single-payer system. What kinds of changes need to be made to Oregon's health care system, and what will you be advocating for in the Legislature?
A: I do support single-payer because I think it's critical that we have one payer negotiating on behalf of the largest pool of consumers. However, there are interim steps that Oregon has taken to start moving us there, like our state-run coordinated care model.
In addition, prescription drug prices are skyrocketing and consumers — the state and individuals — need to know if we're being gouged. California and Nevada passed pharmaceutical transparency bills recently, and I'd like to consider tackling similar legislation in February.
We should also be looking at the other big cost-driver: increasing hospital costs.
Q: With daily traffic jams on I-5, I-205 and Highway 217, it's safe to say both the Multnomah and Clackamas halves of HD38 are familiar with Portland's roadway congestion problems. What do you think about the recently-passed transportation package (including plans to widen parts of I-205), and is there more the Legislature needs to do? Can HD38 residents expect these state-level efforts to lead to tangible traffic improvements in their own district?
A: The transportation package will improve the safety and condition of Oregon's roads and bridges, while also supporting thousands of jobs and helping local businesses get their goods to market.
On I-205 specifically, outdated infrastructure like the Abernethy Bridge is causing congestion and is in need of seismic upgrades. I look forward to working with regional partners to ensure that this and other important projects that impact House District 38 are prioritized.
This transportation package also took a step in the right direction by investing in transit and safe pedestrian and bicycle access.
Q: What solutions do you see that could allow Oregon to resolve its revenue crunch? Would you support an approach in a similar vein to Measure 97 to raise more revenue? Are there necessary changes to PERS that need to be implemented before the state can recover?
A: I will look at all of the work done by the Joint Committee on Tax Reform from
the 2017 session as we consider the best proposal moving forward. The fact is, while working Oregonians pay their fair share, many corporations do not.
Oregon has long-term structural problems with its revenue system. In order to address those issues, we have to take bold action now or we will face more years of painful cuts to K-12 classrooms, higher education, health care and senior services.
On PERS, it is important that any changes we consider are fair and legal. Following previous attempts at changes to PERS benefits, the Oregon Supreme Court has drawn a clear line for what is and is not acceptable.
In the coming years, we are going to have a mass exodus of workers leaving the public workforce as baby boomers enter retirement. Public employers — including counties and cities — will have to compete with the Nikes and Intels of the world for new workers. I would hate to see state and local governments lose out on a talented workforce because they can't compete in the labor market.