A coalition of local movers received a tough civics lesson Wednesday during a town hall meeting hosted by two Jackson County state representatives.

A coalition of local movers received a tough civics lesson Wednesday during a town hall meeting hosted by two Jackson County state representatives.

Rep. Sal Esquivel, a Republican from Medford, joined fellow Republican Rep. Dennis Richardson in engaging a room of citizens at the Medford library.

The pair kicked off the town hall by giving an overview of the latest state budget given the green light by the Legislature. Neither man had much good to say about it, especially the $700 million in new taxes tagged to the latest budget.

"A lot of people are unaware of what exactly happened during this last session," Esquivel said. "We grew our government by 9.4 percent."

Esquivel argued the Democrat-led Legislature should have tried to live more within its means.

"Can we go back to funding Oregon like we did the last biennium without missing a lick or raising a tax? Yes we can," Esquivel said.

Richardson said the tax increases could have partially been offset by dipping into the state's reserve fund.

"There's always the question about how much is in the reserve fund and why it can't be touched," Richardson said.

Both agreed that sometimes it is necessary to raise taxes, but the latest hike could have been avoided had the Legislature asked more critical questions about where some of the money was going.

"We tried to suggest alternatives," Richardson said. "Unfortunately, we were not successful."

When the microphone was given to the audience, both Esquivel and Richardson seemed surprised to hear from movers who feared their businesses were on the line after the Legislature passed a bill limiting how they operate.

Reliable Movers owner Dan Clifford, 48, said Senate Bill 2817 will not allow to drive a rented U-Haul truck to and from job sites.

"My business relies on renting U-Haul trucks to help my customers move," Clifford said. "This new law will not allow us to do that."

The bill requires all movers to prove the mover have "adequate facilities, vehicles and equipment to perform the service proposed."

Clifford believes the intention of the bill is to eliminate the "pack and loader" business in favor of larger moving companies.

"I can't get a permit because I'm not some huge conglomerate," Clifford said.

Clifford understands the law was meant to prohibit fly-by-night movers who own shoddy equipment and are likely to steal from a customer.

"But I'm not a 20-year-old kid with a pickup," Clifford said. "I've had this business for 20 years."

About 40 in attendance were movers. They dominated the early part of the discussion, asking Esquivel and Richardson what they could do to defeat the bill, which passed earlier this year.

Richardson pulled no punches by saying it was too late to do much of anything about it when one person asked if it would do any good for the movers to hire a lawyer to fight the bill in court.

"You needed a lobbyist," Richardson said. "You needed someone who was specifically looking out for you."

Richardson was critical of the law, saying it could cost the region valuable jobs in a recession.

"We need to protect our small businesses," he said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.