Central Coast Congressman Kurt Schrader sat down with county commissioners over the phone this week for a rapid fire conversation on what concerns the commissioners have over what’s going on in Washington DC.
Commissioners Terry Thompson and Doug Hunt made it clear that President Trump’s plans to drastically cut science research programs like Sea Grant and NOAA’s satellite imaging budget, as well as cuts to the Coast Guard, would badly damage Lincoln County’s economy and endanger lives.
Congressman Schrader assured the commissioners that Trump’s proposed federal budget for next fiscal year will not be approved by the Congress. He said it’s a budget that demonstrates Trump’s ignorance of the federal government, how it operates and how it must be funded. Schrader says the Congress will pass a temporary extension of the current budget until they can get a new one put together. Schrader also said the budget, which is solely in the hands of the Congress, will not contain money for Trump’s infamous wall along the Mexican border.
Commissioners Thompson and Hunt (Commissioner Hall was not present) raised the issues of homelessness and affordable housing. Schrader said the long recession battered the housing construction industry which has been slow to recover. Schrader said the high price of timber is part of the problem as well as the growth of housing that caters mainly to tourists, rather than for people who work and live on the coast. And what’s worse, Schrader said, homelessness and affordable housing is not even on the Republican party’s radar screen.
Schrader called Trump’s proposals to cut the Coast Guard and funding for ocean research “just plain crazy.” He said that Trump just doesn’t have a grip on how to run a country – but quickly added, “How could he – because he’s never been a politician or a government worker or dealt with a government budget in his life.” “Congress adopts the budget, not the President,” he said. Schrader said the Congress will pass a budget that makes sense for the nation. And with a 60 vote majority in the Senate required to pass a budget, “there will be a meeting of the minds on all aspects of that budget.”
Schrader said he doubts the Coast Guard’s budget will be cut as Trump wants. He said the Pacific Ocean is much colder than the Atlantic up and down the east coast. He said the recent fight to keep a Coast Guard rescue helicopter based in Newport helped ensure that it will stay in Newport. He also predicted that the Coast Guard Station at Depoe Bay will not be closed either.
On the topic of Newport’s port and efforts to make its new International Terminal a vitally new component to the Central Coast economy, Schrader said it’s vital to have the terminal built to handle exports as well as imports. He acknowledged the uproar from other communities up and down the coast who felt that continuing to ship just raw logs overseas is not good for Oregon’s overall economy. As a side-note, port officials acknowledge the legitimacy of that argument and are coming up with an altered business plan.
Commissioner Thompson brought up the controversy over aerial pesticide spraying as it’s applied over recently clear cut forest lands. Schrader said he agrees with Lincoln County Commissioners who recently came out against Measure 21-177. Schrader said it’s unfair to penalize an entire industry for an occasional bad actor. He said vigorous enforcement of spraying rules is the key. Schrader said that many people don’t understand aerial spraying or the safeguards that are built into the rules to protect public health.
Schrader also touched on the country’s rapidly aging transportation system. He said it’ll take a trillion dollars to make a difference in our roads and highways. He said he expects to see the Congress put up $200 billion and then leverage the rest. Such a public-private partnership has been kicked around for a number of years. On the plus side, it would accelerate the reconstruction of our nation’s infrastructure. On the downside it would jack-up the long term costs by quite a bit.