Momentum – 4th Annual Klamath Day at the State Capitol
Last week, your Klamath County Chamber Government Affairs Committee (GAC) traveled to Salem with a message focused on business-friendly legislation and championing our community. This was our 4th Annual Klamath Day at the Capitol and despite the tension and absence of many legislators due to the ongoing cap-and-trade battle, the trip was productive and valuable.
Scroll down to read a list of our community’s priorities that we focused on this year, but I wanted to give you an inside view of how these trips come together. All year, your GAC listens to members, community leaders, and citizens about the good and the bad in our community. We want to know what’s holding you back and what’s moving you forward. Then, a few months before the legislative session, the committee meets and starts to develop 3 to 5 priorities. Some of these priorities are determined (oppose or support) by pending legislation. Some are proactive as we aim to find solutions to help our community continue to grow and thrive. We then schedule appointments based on the individual legislators’ involvement in the issues on our priority list (so many appointments). We schedule with both the House and the Senate, with both Republicans and Democrats, and with agencies that can help us advance our priorities.
This year was interesting to say the least. By the time we arrived Monday afternoon, the Senate Republicans had made the tough decision to walk out and deny a quorum. Their walkout is an attempt to give control back to the voters when it comes to cap-and-trade by denying a quorum to the super majority held by the democrats. That’s what the Republican legislators that walked-out want – send it to the voters and let us decide. By Tuesday, the House Republicans had walked too, for the same reason. As a committee, we pay very close attention to things going on in Salem, so we were not surprised by these developments and scheduled many of our appointments with the potential walkouts in mind.
We still had work to do and we still had a message to share, regardless of the walkout. Part of this trip is relationship-building. After four years, the folks in Salem know that the Klamath County business community will show up and fight for what we need or want. It’s also given us a chance to change the perception of our community. Instead of painting the community as struggling, we focus on our opportunities, our innovative ideas, and our future. It’s refreshing to hear someone say “Wow, I really need to get down to Klamath.” after they’ve heard us brag about our community. It’s also great to hear greetings of recognition from legislators that we
have met with on past trips when a Representative or Senator greets you with a friendly, “you look familiar, we have met before”. This means your Government Affairs Committee is seeing the positive cumulative impact of previous visits to our state capital.
So now for the 2020 Legislative Priorities:
Total Maximum Daily Load (Water Quality)
You might not even be aware that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is putting stringent allowances that would require significant (and unnecessary), costly investment that could potentially raise your water rates. We recognize the importance of water quality. We were united in asking for alternative, more affordable practical solutions.
Cap and Trade
We were united in our opposition to this legislation that would collect millions of dollars from taxpayers like you with little impact on the environment. The bill hasn’t been analyzed for its economic impact nor the environmental impact. It also lacks transparency in where your money will go. Our state is already a leader in the green economy and is one of the lowest carbon emitting states in the nation. We believe this bill could drive business out of the state and cost jobs. We stand united with legislators who believe this bill should be more thoroughly analyzed and sent to the voters.
There was a federal program that created Opportunity Zone tax incentives, including several in Klamath County. It adds one more tool in our toolbox to help entice economic development in our community. However, there’s a group of legislators who want to disconnect Oregon from this federal Opportunity Zone tax incentive that included in the federal ‘Tax Cut and Jobs Act’ passed by Congress in 2017. We see no good reason for Oregon to disconnect from the program.
With housing inventory at less than 2%, Klamath County needs development of workforce/affordable housing in order to grow. Between growth at Kingsley, several pending projects, and active efforts to recruit new business to the area, we need a place for our workers to live. Last year, the GAC supported two bills to spur housing development and that money is soon coming available. We met with committee members and the Housing and Community Development Housing Integrator to request funds as well as offer our community as a “pilot” program. Our friends at KCEDA (Klamath County Economic Development Association) have made great progress on an initiative that sets us up to take advantage of this situation and we were happy to help move this along.
Klamath is considered a “childcare desert” with only one childcare position open for every 16 who need it. This affects our ability to recruit and expand businesses in our region. We requested support for two childcare facilities, each accommodating 200 children in our community, over the next three years. Klamath community leaders (working with KCEDA) have met with Governor Brown this past January to propose several sites.
Requesting transparency and adherence to rules
We met with the Secretary of State to urge her to support a fair and unbiased application process within each state agency and asked her to audit a few programs that aren’t working.
There were a handful of other bills we discussed but ultimately this was our list of 2020 priorities and we remain committed to following up on all issues and providing a voice for our business community.
Determined to work through the tension and turmoil in Salem this year, these are the community leaders and members of the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee that joined us in bringing our community’s voice to Salem this year:
- Heather Tramp – Executive Director, Klamath County Chamber of Commerce
- Joe Spendolini – Chairman, Klamath County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee
- Todd Andres – Klamath Falls City Councilman, Regional Business Manager Pacific Power
- Nathan Cherpeski – Klamath Falls City Manager
- Andrew Stork – Klamath County Economic Development Association
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 541-884-5193.