Coast Rep. David Gomberg gives legislative update to Newport Chamber and at a town hall meeting in Toledo
Addressing the Friday luncheon of the Newport Chamber of Commerce Friday, Coast Rep. David Gomberg said one of the biggest issues facing the legislature is getting more funding for K-12 Education. He said the critical question is, where is the money going to come from? At the moment, he said the target seems to be the Public Employment Retirement System by removing out of state income tax supplement payments to retirees who don’t pay personal income tax in the state they live, limiting cost of living allowances based on the size of one’s retirement check and others. And of course, raising taxes.
Gomberg said robbing Peter to pay Paul on K-12 funding is not the way to go. He told chamber members there are many Oregonians who haven’t paid state income taxes in years. There are also back taxes owed, still on the books and tax credits and incentives being given to green energy generators, some of whom are receiving excessive benefits – these and more totaling over a billion dollars that are still on the table. He said the Oregon Department of Justice should sue the Wall Street banks and investment houses who defrauded Oregon’s retirement accounts out of $150 million in connection with the Wall Street crash. “We ought to go after that money before we hit up PERS retirees and the taxpayers,” Gomberg said.
Gomberg said Oregon’s commercial and recreation fishing industries were recently abused in Salem when the staff of the Land Conservation and Development Commission, after three years of public hearings and recommendations on where to put wave energy machines, surprised everyone by insisting another area be added to the fishing grounds withdrawal list without conferring with anyone – an area of Pacific City in the Netarts area. Gomberg said the move was unexpected and flies in the face of all the hard work completed up and down the coast by the fishing industry, wave energy interests and local government leaders constructing the now complete Territorial Sea Plan.
Gomberg said he has a few bills that he’s introduced which include requiring that any salmon sold in Oregon should be labeled whether it’s natural salmon versus genetically modified salmon (GMO). Another bill – local brewers like Rogue Ale should be able to retail sell their beer in more than just one other location. Gomberg said it should be at least five. Another bill – setting aside funds to ensure that when the Research Vessel Oceanus is retired that marine scientists can have a replacement craft; not only for the Hatfield Marine Science Center but for other scientific agencies and institutions to use. And finally, a bill that will create a new Oregon license plate that features the Oregon Coast.
From the luncheon in Newport, Gomberg traveled to the Toledo Library where he met with Mayor Ralph Grutzmacher, councilor Jill Lyon and a number of townspeople in a town hall sort of arrangement.
Gomberg gave a similar legislative update as he gave in Newport, but talked a little more about the country’s changing methods of delivering health care. Gomberg said assuming the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is not repealed we’ll soon see mandatory health care coverage for all Americans. Well over half the country will still get their insurance through their employer. Gomberg said under an emerging Oregon health plan, a state government sponsored information center will give residents all the information they need to find what insurance program will best meet their needs. And for some, if they can’t afford the full premium there will be a government subsidy offered to fill the financial gap.
Gomberg said there has been a long standing problem of medical care being centered in the Willamette Valley with all the access problems that go with it being so far from the coast. Gomberg said more nurse practitioners (they are 75% doctor) may solve part of the problem but there aren’t many of them available. The end result, said Gomberg, is that health care costs the most on the Oregon Coast where incomes are far below the state average.
Port of Toledo General Manager Bud Shoemake said Toledo needs help from the “Connect Oregon” fund to help pay for a 300 ton travel-lift to get fishing boats out of the water and onto the dock where they can worked on, and then put back in the water. He and others said that Newport is becoming a center for marine science as well as fisheries. The boats are parked there, but they’re overhauled and fixed in Toledo. It’s a natural partnership that needs to be strengthened and taken to the next level. Gomberg said he understands the point fully.
The subject of gun control came up with one young man in the audience saying that there are already enough controls on guns without adding more. He said government should keep their hands off guns because guns are not the problem; it’s the mentally ill who find ways to get access to them. Gomberg agreed that the country has a problem with the way it delivers mental health programs to seriously ill people. “It’s a big challenge and a whole other issue” said Gomberg. He said he expects gun control bills in the Oregon Legislature to focus on background checks, banning guns in schools, and banning guns in the Oregon State Capitol. New laws that ban assault weapons and big gun clips don’t appear to be politically feasible.
And as Gomberg referenced in his discussion with the Newport Chamber, he wants to see the state go after people who filed their tax returns but didn’t enclose the check. He said there are hundreds of millions of dollars rightly and properly owed to the state that simply haven’t been paid. Those monies should be collected, he said, and maybe not farmed out to private collection agencies. He also brought up the Wall Street issue, that trillions of dollars were lost due to illegal behavior by Wall Street banks and investment houses and yet they haven’t paid hardly anything to those whose retirements and other investments collapsed or were drawn down to a fraction of where they were just six months earlier. Oregon retirement funds lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the collapse. Gomberg said, “Before we go after Oregonians for the money, we ought to go after those responsible for causing the recession in the first place.”