We’d like you to draft a multimillion-dollar wish list and send it off to your Oregon state senator and state representative.
Each of Oregon’s 30 senators can spend $4 million in federal funding — almost as they please. And each of the 60 members of the House has command of $2 million.
Who knows better than you where it should be spent? Or at least, they should listen to your suggestions and thank you for them.
The total $240 million comes courtesy of the federal American Rescue Plan Act. This deal for spreading around the money was struck to keep Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature focused on passing legislation, not fighting. Lawmakers have until May 10 to come up with lists. All the lists submitted may well be rounded up into what they call a Christmas tree bill, so everybody’s goodies are rolled into one. That way the bill surely will pass.
Now you could be a penny pincher and tell your Oregon legislators not to spend a penny. You have to know, though, other legislators won’t let the money sit around. They will spend it. Might as well take local control of the money. The overall state budget is in good shape. The early session pandemic financial fretting melted away with the spring, because the total Oregon is expected to get from the federal rescue plan is some $2.6 billion.
One-time spending of $4 million or $2 million can’t fix wildfire risk in national forests. It won’t build much for roads anywhere. Some targeted dollars, though, can change lives.
Union County’s aging jail is in need of major upgrades, possibly even a better facility entirely. A big chunk of money could help provide services to combat homelessness in the county. Of course, state Rep. Bobby Levy and Sen. Bill Hansell, our voices in the Legislature, have districts covering multiple counties so they will have plenty of folks asking for the dollars they can allocate.
It perhaps makes sense not to spend it on hiring people for new jobs or to start up new programs. How do you pay for them next year? That said, it might make sense to spend it on a pilot program if there’s a good idea that needs testing out. Eastern Oregon University probably has some of those that could benefit from a financial boost.
There’s such a big need for so many things it’s not going to be easy to divvy up a few million. Are some needs more acute right now? Would it help to spend some more to encourage more people to get vaccinated? Is there a program in the schools that could make a real difference for students who lost learning because of the pandemic? Could something be done to help keep businesses operating? Is there anything needed for public safety training? Affordable housing, fighting child abuse, homelessness and so many more ideas that we have not mentioning also are deserving.
It’s not going to be so easy for legislators to pick. You may have a good idea that your legislator never thought of. You may have a good idea that your legislator is on the fence about. Let them know.
If you are not sure who your legislator is, you can enter your address at oregonlegislature.gov/FindYourLegislator/leg-districts.html and it will tell you. Click on their name and their email address should pop up. Then plan your wish list.