Dear Legislature: Local residents offer their priorities

Some urge push for more jobs; others call for deep budget cuts
Sally Geser of Medford thinks jobs and housing are the most important things for the Oregon Legislature to focus on.Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

Jackson County residents are speaking out about the state of Oregon's $3.5 billion budget shortfall and what it could mean for education, public safety and health services. Many of them have their own ideas of how the Legislature should address it.

"I'd like them to look at education and higher education and not just continue to cut, cut, cut," said Gina Ebbeling, 35, of Ashland.

What some local residents say

"I would hope they'd find a way to balance the budget without cutting higher education too much. Companies in Oregon require a skilled work force."

— John Hall, Medford

"Manage money wiser. It's a good place to start."

— MaryBeth Miller, Medford

"I'd like them to look at education and higher education and not just continue to cut, cut, cut."

— Gina Ebbeling, Ashland

"They should bring more jobs into Oregon. They should invite more corporations to come up here and give them tax breaks rather than let them go overseas."

— Richard Pascali, Ashland

"Rather than focus on incarceration, they should focus on education."

— Allen Adams, Medford

"Jobs for everybody, and deal with the housing situation."

— Sally Geser, Medford

"It makes more sense business-wise and rent-wise to live in Oregon. I know this state's hurting, but look at all the people down in California where it's worse."

— Alex Reynolds, Talent

"Just cut the fat. Keep essential services. Be more fiscally conservative this session."

— James Baur, Medford

Others thought the Legislature should be more fiscally responsible.

"Manage money wiser. It's a good place to start," said MaryBeth Miller, 19, of Medford.

But James Baur, 55, of Medford, offered an even blunter suggestion: "Just cut the fat. Keep essential services. Be more fiscally conservative this session."

The Legislature will begin its full session Feb. 1. Gov. John Kitzhaber is preparing a recommended budget for the Legislature to hash out.

Richard Pascali said the Legislature should do more to attract businesses and generate more high-paying jobs, which would help bring in additional tax dollars for the state.

"They should bring more jobs into Oregon. They should invite more corporations to come up here and give them tax breaks rather than let them go overseas," said the 35-year-old Ashland resident.

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said he already senses strong bipartisan support to resolve Oregon's long-term budget problems, particularly in the House, which has 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans.

He said Kitzhaber has been very inclusive with both parties in his discussions about the budget, which will include efforts to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy from programs, which sometimes involve as many as eight different agencies.

Previously, the Legislature fashioned its budgets based on maintaining current service levels. To maintain those levels, the state would need another $3.5 billion in the next biennial budget.

Instead, Kitzhaber is looking at recommending a budget based on a flat revenue projection, which likely will results in furloughs, job losses and other cuts, Buckley said.

Despite the daunting budget problems, Buckley said he is optimistic about the upcoming session and the ability to find bipartisan solutions.

Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, said Oregon government has expanded beyond its capacity to support itself.

Richardson said he believes legislators and the governor are committed to long-term solutions, rather than enduring endless cycles of expanding, followed by cutting government. He agrees with Buckley that there will be a greater bipartisan effort to resolve the budget problems.

"I think that we will work together not just because we want to but because we have to," he said.

It could be painful for some Oregonians to handle the cuts.

"It's not going to be easy because they are used to getting things they can't afford," Richardson said.

Reach Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.



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