Legislators discuss Oregon’s budget gap at PCC Sylvania

The Legislature faces a $1.8 billion shortfall in the 2015-17 budget

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, listens to a constituent during budget talks at PCC Sylvania. February 11, 2017, (Dana Haynes, Beaverton Valley Times)

PORTLAND, Ore. (BEAVERTON VALLEY TIMES) — An estimated 500 people crowded into the College Center at Portland Community College’s Sylvania Campus today to express their opinions, as the Legislature’s budget-writing body brought its road show to town.

The Legislature faces a $1.8 billion shortfall in the 2015-17 budget. Lawmakers are touring the state, seeking to hear from as many Oregonians as possible before deciding on a package of budget cuts and, potentially, new revenue.

Unlike the federal government, state’s must balance their budgets.

“There are some very real impacts on people’s lives from these budgets,” said Sen. Richard Devlin, Tualatin, who co-chairs the budget-writing Ways & Means Committee.

However, he added, “We won’t be filling in any of the blanks in the co-chairs budget without new revenue.”

The Beaverton Valley Times is a KOIN media partner

Rep. Margaret Doherty, whose district includes Tigard as well as PCC Sylvania, said she came mostly to listen to constituents. “The people in our district are pretty consistent,” she said. “They want transportation. They want good jobs. They want good schools. That’s what I hear over and over again.”

Rep. Karin Power, whose district includes Milwaukie, Oak Grove and Sellwood, said she was impressed by the over-capacity crowd, which included people standing in the aisles and waving signs in the back of the vast College Center space. “But I have to say, I also held a coffee today and drew about 25 people,” she said. “A lot of them said they wanted to come to this event and couldn’t.”

Topics for the day includes transportation, services for veterans, public health, the environment and reproductive health. But perhaps the hottest topic was education.

Geoff Hunnicutt teaches at the Arts and Communications Magnet School in Beaverton. He came to talk about the impact on proposed cuts to public schools, which he warned could mean more students in each classroom and shorter school years.

Sabrina Stitt is the mother of two, a PSU student, and she served as a Marine from 2009 to 2012. She came to advocate for her college education, but also for that of her young children.

“I think it’s important for people to be heard,” she said above the din of the crowd. “And it’s important for people to feel empowered. Now, how much of it will effect the (lawmakers) decisions? I can’t tell.”

Linda Moholt of the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce said the top issues she hears from members of her organization are transportation and workforce development.

“These are good; extremely valuable,” she said of the town hall. “Honestly, they need to hold one in each county. They’re that important.”