Communities counting on DeBoer’s swing vote

Whether the state Legislature is able to meet the needs of Southern Oregon’s students, seniors and working families is now to a large extent in the hands of Alan DeBoer.

As the Mail Tribune reported on Nov. 17, the state is facing a $1.7 billion deficit in the wake of the defeat of Measure 97.

Since the state’s budget goes primarily to schools, seniors, health care and law enforcement, our communities face devastating cuts unless the Legislature acts to bring in new revenue.

Measure 97 would have more than covered the deficit by requiring the largest corporations — one out of 400, many of them from out of state — to pay their fair share in taxes.

This is where DeBoer comes in. In his campaign to fill our state Senate seat until November 2018, he helped lead the corporate-funded effort to defeat Measure 97.

He said he sympathized with its goals but felt it was poorly constructed. He promised to support other ways to “increase funding and make schools the priority” and “cut overcrowding in our classrooms,” and to ensure “quality, affordable health care for all Oregonians.”

He also promised progress on “mass transit, affordable housing, homeless issues, food bank, historical, veterans, student loans, medical, education and senior care.”

To pay for that progress, he said in the Oct. 17 Mail Tribune that, if elected, he would support “closing loopholes to make sure that everyone, including corporations mentioned in Measure 97, pay their fair share.”

Now it’s time for him to step forward with specifics. Which loopholes for the biggest corporations and richest individuals is he ready to close? How does he propose to “increase funding” to “cut overcrowding in our classrooms?” How will he ensure affordable health care for all?

These questions are particularly important because it takes 18 votes in the state Senate to pass many of the most important bills. Before his untimely passing in August, Sen. Alan Bates was that 18th vote. Now that DeBoer has taken his place, he will be the key swing vote.

The community where I serve as mayor, like others in the Rogue Valley, needs to expand the supply of affordable housing. Last year, a proposal was before the Legislature that would have allowed local cities to require that larger developments include some affordable housing units. Unfortunately, it was blocked by corporate lobbyists for communities like Talent, where a lack of affordable housing is at crisis levels. Having promised action on affordable housing, will DeBoer support common-sense measures like that?

Similarly, my community is working hard to bring together local businesses, residents, community groups and public agencies to speed our transition to cleaner energy sources like solar and make our buildings more energy-efficient. The Healthy Climate Bill in the last session of the Legislature would have helped Southern Oregon invest in good-paying, clean-energy jobs. Lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry stopped that bill. Will DeBoer fight for it?

Local residents are particularly asking these questions because of the publicly available information on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website where DeBoer was required to report the sources of his campaign contributions. The list includes most of the major corporate special interests in this country, many of them from out of state — Walmart, Chevron, Tesoro, Phillips 66, BP, Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, American Insurance Association, Liberty Mutual, The Hartford, Travelers Indemnity, Natural Gas PAC, and AG-PAC, which represents the interests of companies like Monsanto and Syngenta.

These corporate interests look for candidates who won’t make them pay their fair share to prevent huge cuts in services our communities depend on. His oil and coal company contributors do not want to speed up the shift to renewable energy. His insurance company supporters do not want to bring down the cost of health care coverage. And companies like Monsanto do not want counties like ours to have the right to be free of GMO products and seeds.

As the swing vote in the state Senate, DeBoer can clarify his vague promises and act to represent communities like mine and throughout the Rogue Valley as Senator Bates would have. Or he can use it to block progress, to criticize without offering alternatives, to vote his party’s line instead of the people’s needs.

I sincerely hope he comes forward in the next few weeks with his specific, constructive proposals to carry out his campaign promises so we can all work together for the real solutions our communities need.

— Darby Stricker is mayor of Talent. The views expressed here are her own.

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