The Oregon Legislature will face three big issues this session — taxes, carbon reduction and health care — without the appetite to take them all on at one time, state Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, told the Eagle.
The session starts Jan. 22. Democrats have introduced 40 new bills which all raise taxes, Findley said. What’s needed is tax reform, and he hopes his seat on the House Revenue Committee will make a difference.
“I am looking forward to getting to work for the people of House District 60,” Findley said in a press release. “I know a lot of people in Eastern Oregon feel like their voices aren’t heard in Salem and don’t matter, but I’m here to tell you that they do matter. I will do everything in my power during this next session to work across the aisle and to promote Eastern Oregon values with every vote that I take.”
Findley worked in fire and aviation management for the Bureau of Land Management for 32 years and was the Vale city manager for five years. He also served on several planning commissions in Malheur County.
He was appointed in January 2018 to fill the remainder of former Rep. Cliff Bentz’s term after Bentz was appointed to former Sen. Ted Ferrioli’s seat. Findley ran unopposed in the November election.
Findley has been appointed vice chairperson on the House Revenue Committee and co-vice chairperson on the Joint Committee on Tax Expenditures. He also will sit on the House committees for Energy and Environment, Veterans and Emergency Preparedness and the Joint Transportation Committee.
“These committee assignments, especially as vice chair on the Revenue Committee, will give Eastern Oregonians a unique voice in shaping tax policies,” Findley said.
Findley said he supported the establishment of an Oregon Broadband Office by Gov. Kate Brown in December. The office is not yet funded, and Brown has proposed $5 million in broadband infrastructure funding for the next biennium.
Findley attended Rep. Greg Walden’s meeting with the Grant County Digital Network Coalition in John Day in October. He’s a big supporter of improved internet access in rural communities and said he was disappointed that the coalition failed to win a $3 million federal broadband grant to improve internet access in Grant County.
Findley said he will champion a bill that will raise the tax on phone bills used to support emergency dispatch services from 75 cents to $1.50. The bill will also change the formula that allocates the revenue so a larger share will go to counties with fewer than 40,000 residents.
The additional revenue will help rural communities that struggle to fund 911 dispatch. Findley said the bill has been introduced and is gaining bipartisan support in the legislature.
While the state faces an estimated $800 million budget shortfall for health care, the legislature continues to kick the liability for the Public Employees Retirement System down the road. More work is needed to address the impacts of PERS on local and state budgets, but Findley said he has never seen a “silver bullet” solution.
Gov. Brown announced in November her goal of appropriating an additional $2 billion for education, but Findley said the numbers aren’t solid and depend on ideas such as extending the length of the school year to 180 days and reducing class sizes.
Meanwhile, 14 legislators on the bipartisan Joint Committee on Student Success have been studying Oregon’s low high school graduation rates and other education issues. Findley said the 180-day school year idea is not backed by good science.
Findley said there’s no lack of bipartisan support for improving education, but the important thing is to get the best bang for the buck, not just throwing more money at the problem.
As a member of the House committee overseeing veterans issues, Findley said he understands the need for more housing opportunities for vets. State housing programs often include provisions for veterans, but the programs have failed to live up to their goals.
Supporting attainable housing will require money, Findley said, but that shouldn’t mean additional taxes. Oregon doesn’t have a revenue problem, he said, it has a spending and accountability problem. One study found the state could have saved $1 billion in the past biennium by spending tax money more wisely.