In conversations she had with individuals and business owners in the community, Peggy Stevens said some told her they were considering moving out of Oregon due to high taxes. And these conversations, she said, were a major driver in her decision to run against state Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, in the House District 26 race.
"I thought, 'That's really sad because I love Oregon' and I got looking further into it and they're right," she said.
Stevens, who won the Republican nomination in the race to represent Wilsonville, Sherwood, King City and other areas at the state Capitol, is a former Sherwood School Board member and accounting supervisor at Catlin Gabel school.
She said serving on the school board for 11 years, including a stint as chair, helped her learn how to address the concerns of constituents and make tough decisions.
"During that time we built two new schools in separate years," she said. "We had to make a lot of hard decisions, tough choices on prioritizing what we were going to do with the bond money, how to spend that to meet the needs of the school district, the kids, the families — and still have a quality school."
She also was a single mother of four children for a time before getting married and raising a family of 12. She said she understands both what it's like to struggle to make ends meet and to negotiate within a large family with many conflicting perspectives.
"I have an empathy for people who are in those circumstances, where they're struggling to survive," she said.
Policy-wise, easing the tax burden of businesses and individuals is Stevens' priority. She noted that Oregon's state budget has increased in recent years and she would like to cut costs. She didn't specify what areas of public services she would like to cut, but said she would make funding schools a priority.
"I think the schools need it. The schools are always underfunded," she said.
However, she said the Corporate Activity Tax (CAT) embedded within the approved Student Success Act to fund local schools shouldn't have been approved, particularly since Oregon voters already had struck down a gross receipts tax via Measure 97.
She said the CAT tax, which taxes businesses with over $1 million in annual revenue, is effectively a hidden sales tax. Stevens thought the word "corporate" in the title is a misnomer; it doesn't just apply to behemoths like Nike and Intel.
"This hits small businesses, everything you buy at Al's Garden, carpet cleaners, dentists. This is worse than a sales tax," Steven said.
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Stevens thinks counties should be able to decide regulations to prevent the spread of the virus for themselves rather than having them be dictated by the state and also thinks the forced closure of Bullwinkle's Wilsonville and other large facilities was unwarranted.
"I think business owners should be allowed to use their experience to have the freedom to run their businesses," Stevens said. "I think there are too many government regulations."
Also, Stevens thinks Gov. Kate Brown should move more swiftly to approve the certificate of need requirement for the development of a mental health hospital in Wilsonville. This project has been pending for well over a year. In a similar vein, Stevens doesn't want Portland's homeless crisis to trickle into the suburbs.
"Right now our state government has shut down several mental health institutions and decided the communities should help the mentally ill," she said. "That hasn't worked. Our state is at the bottom in the nation for providing services for mental health."
Stevens criticized Neron for following in lockstep with party leadership on legislation. When asked what policy she diverges on from the Republican establishment, she did not say. But she thought that Republican leaders placed less pressure on uniformity than the Democratic establishment.
"I truly hope to be a representative of the people, listen to the people and represent the people and not be forced to take votes according to my party," she said. "I do not want to undermine the will of the people. I want to be elected to serve the people, not the party."
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