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Lawmakers want talks to begin for 2017 transportation bill
The four lawmakers were all part of a bipartisan group dubbed the "Gang of Eight," who met with Gov. Kate Brown during the 2015 legislative session to hammer out a transportation funding proposal.
Oregon lawmakers said on Monday that they need to begin negotiations now, if they are going to pass legislation to fund transportation in 2017.
The lawmakers state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose; Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville; Rep Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario; and Rep. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay were on a panel at the Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit in Portland.
The four lawmakers were all part of a bipartisan group dubbed the Gang of Eight, who met with Gov. Kate Brown during the 2015 legislative session to hammer out a transportation funding proposal. Lawmakers and the governor scrapped the proposal in June, after Oregon Department of Transportation director Matthew Garrett revealed during a public hearing on the plan that it would result in a smaller carbon emissions reduction than originally projected.
Brown also said on Monday that she based her decision to defer action on a transportation package in part on the plan by the petroleum and trucking industries to seek a 2016 ballot measure to repeal the states low-carbon fuel standard.
On Monday, the lawmakers said the short timeline in 2015 made it difficult to negotiate a proposal with broad support, and one of the lessons was to set aside more time to develop the next plan.
Davis said he was discouraged to hear people suggest the Legislature wait until 2017 to negotiate a transportation funding package. I think the first thing is, we start, Davis said.
Davis, whose suburban constituents deal with traffic congestion during their commutes, said lawmakers need to start putting forward straw proposals, so that various interests have time to debate the pros and cons.
McKeown also said the Legislature needs to invest time in negotiating a transportation package. I think were going to need that year to be able to bring something together that would be palatable to our constituents, McKeown said.
Johnson said that in order to produce successful transportation funding bills, the state must continue to include representatives from around the state.
It was in that spirit of collaboration that we worked pretty diligently, Johnson said. Time was not our friend and we eventually ran out of time ... It was collegial, it was cooperative. We were there as Oregonians.
I think its time for all of us to get back in the room and start negotiating, said Johnson, whose constituents are currently dealing with storm damage to the transportation system.
Bentz said a key goal for lawmakers is to craft a proposal that has broad support and a minimal chance of being referred to the ballot.
That takes time, Bentz said. Bentz is trying to line up funding to repair the route to a diatomaceous earth mine in his district that, together with the processing plant, employees more than 100 people.