Today 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 Oregon Legislature focused on passing legislation, not fighting. 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 will surely 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 many of the big issues we face.
It can’t fix wildfire risk in the Blue Mountains. It won’t build enough child care centers or preschools to eliminate the shortage.
There are a lot of things it won’t do; some targeted dollars, though, can change lives.
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.
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 and so many more ideas that we have not mentioned 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 this website: 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.