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Oregon House passes $3.8 billion transportation bill

Taxes, fee hikes also expected to pass Senate

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon House has passed a transportation bill that would raise $3.8 billion in new tax and fee revenue over seven years for repairs to the state's roads and bridges.

The Register Guard reports Wednesday (http://bit.ly/2tSM2HI) that House Bill 2017 now heads to the Oregon Senate, where it's expected to pass.

The bill received bipartisan support after a convoluted path that included strong disagreements among lawmakers.

Gov. Kate Brown and legislative leaders had to step in to prevent a repeat of the 2015 session, when a different transportation deal unraveled.

The package had to be scaled back in size and Democrats had to agree to GOP-endorsed changes to Oregon's fuels standard to get it to the finish line.

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News release from Oregon House Democrats:

Today, after a year and a half of input, the Oregon House of Representatives passed a comprehensive, bipartisan transportation package that will keep Oregon moving forward safely and efficiently.

House Bill 2017, which passed 39-20 is the result of a statewide, 11-stop tour undertaken by the Joint Transportation Preservation and Modernization Committee, which was formed in 2016 by House Speaker Tina Kotek (D – North Portland) and Senate President Peter Courtney (D – Salem). The committee met with community members and transportation stakeholders across the state, and held numerous public hearings in the Capitol throughout the session. The committee incorporated that public input into the final transportation package.

“Transportation means access to a better life and a better future for Oregonians,” says Rep. Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay), who led the joint committee with Rep. Cliff Bentz (D-Ontario), co-vice-chair; Sen. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), co-chair; and Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas), co-vice-chair. “Every day, people rely on our roads to get to their jobs, to school, to the doctor, to the grocery store, to social services, and to be with their families. A well-maintained transportation system brings us all together.”

HB 2017 will raise $5.3 billion for infrastructure over the next ten years. It will modernize and improve Oregon’s transportation infrastructure by addressing four of the priorities heard most consistently around the state: reducing congestion, increasing alternate transportation options, investing in maintenance and preservation, improving safety of existing infrastructure, and ensuring accountability in how taxpayer dollars are spent.

“In our travels around the state last summer, we heard universal support of the need for additional investment in our roads and bridges. Also in all regions, local leaders strongly supported funding for transit, multi-modal, bicycle and pedestrian paths,” says Rep. John Lively (D-Springfield). “HB 2017 takes a very comprehensive multi-year approach to all the areas for more funding.”

Reducing Congestion

Reducing congestion in the Portland-metro area was a big priority at every one of the 11 stops the joint committee made last year. Clogged interstates in Portland slow down both commuter and freight traffic; products take longer to get to market, workers are less productive, and quality of life is degraded.

HB 2017 eases congestion by:

·       Making a full investment in bottleneck relief on OR-217;

·       Widening northbound I-205 from Powell Boulevard to I-84;

·       Using technology to ease congestion;

·       Requiring planning to widen the freeway from Stafford Road to the Abernethy Bridge;

·       Investing in new lanes to address issues of gridlock on I-5 through the Rose Quarter;

·       Directing the Oregon Transportation Commission to create a Congestion Relief Program and specifically target solutions for metro area congestion.

Increasing Alternative Transportation

HB 2017 will make a substantial new investment in public transit to improve the connectivity and frequency of bus service in communities across the state by instituting a statewide payroll tax of one tenth of one percent of wages. In 2018, that is expected to raise $103 million for public transit, with an emphasis on increasing reach, frequency, and access for low-income transit riders, as well as bridging the gap in between communities in rural areas.

The package will create a funding mechanism to permanently fund Connect Oregon. It creates a dedicated investment for bicycle and pedestrian commuter paths in Connect Oregon, plus an additional 1 percent for bike and pedestrian projects on the highway system. A new excise tax on adult bicycles (that cost $200 or more) will produce an average of $1.2 million each year for additional bike and pedestrian infrastructure. The package also provides $12 million per year for rebates for electric and other zero emission vehicles to promote their use in Oregon.

Investing in Preservation and Maintenance

HB 2017 funds critical seismic improvements and fix many of the state’s bridges, highways, and culverts by raising vehicle registration fees, title fees, and fuels taxes incrementally over the next seven years.

Promoting Safety

This package also provides $10 million per year for Safe Routes to Schools. That funding increases to $15 million in 2023.

Ensuring Accountability and Transparency

HB 2017 promotes transparency and accountability by directing the Transportation Commission to:

·       Create a Continuous Improvement Advisory Committee for ODOT;

·       Measure and report on transportation system conditions for all jurisdictions;

·       Create a transparency website;

·       Conduct benefit cost analysis for capacity building projects, and

·       Create a stronger connection between the commission and the internal auditor of ODOT. Finally, the last three increases in the gas tax and fees will be conditioned on accountability.

“It was an honor to work on this bipartisan project for investment for our roads, for our light rails and transits, for our pathways, for our freight and commercial activity, and for addressing congestion in our communities,” says Rep. Susan McLain (D-Forest Grove). “The package provides a wide variety of inter-modal improvements and maintenance, and a commitment over a 7-year period to continue to build and improve the infrastructure across the State of Oregon.”

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News release from Oregon House Republicans:

Oregon House approves bipartisan transportation package

 

Salem, Ore. - The Oregon House today approved a comprehensive transportation package that will provide a decade of investments in the state’s transportation infrastructure. The multi-year, $5.3 billion investment plan will provide funding for congestion relief projects, seismic resiliency efforts and road and bridge preservation and maintenance. The package also includes a number of transparency and accountability features that will strengthen oversight over the Department of Transportation and the project contracting process, as well as modifications to the low-carbon fuel standard program designed to protect consumers from dramatic price increases and abnormal market behavior.

“This package puts us on the road to making much-needed and overdue investments in maintaining our city, county and state roads and bridges,” said Representative Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), who served as co-vice chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “We simply cannot afford to continue our pattern of disinvestment in our infrastructure. No bill of this size is perfect, but the provisions of this bill will go a long way toward addressing our state’s most pressing transportation needs. This is a package Oregonians across the state can be proud of.”

HB 2017, the transportation package policy bill, is separated into several key sections including:

·         Accountability

·         Highway Maintenance, Preservation, and Seismic Funding

·         Multimodal Transportation

·         Traffic Congestion Relief Program

·         Public Transportation

·         Transportation Generally

·         Jurisdictional Transfers

·         Zero-Emission and Electric Vehicle Rebates

·         Clean Fuels Program Cost Containment

The transportation package is estimated to raise an estimated $5.3 billion over the next decade through a combination of gas tax and fee increases and other revenue raising mechanisms. In addition to providing funding for the Safe Routes to Schools program and the Rose Quarter congestion relief project, funds raised by the package will be shared among the Oregon Department of Transportation, counties and cities according to the following formula:

50% - Oregon Department of Transportation

            30% - Counties

            20% - Cities

The transportation package passed the House on a 39-20 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to be passed before the Legislature adjourns.

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REP. KNUTE BUEHLER RESPONDS TO PASSAGE OF TRANSPORTATION PACKAGE

 Salem, OR – Representative Knute Buehler issued the following statement on the transportation package that passed out of the Oregon House Chamber today:

“I believe Oregon is long overdue to improve our transportation infrastructure but this plan is the wrong way to do it. I'm strongly opposed to a new "Tesla Tax" to subsidize the purchase of electric cars for a privileged few. Further, a new statewide payroll tax, which will reduce the take-home pay of working Oregonians, to fund transit in a few communities is unfair and bad policy. And, I continue to have concerns about how billions of new dollars will be spent by an agency, which still lacks accountability and transparency."

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News release from Oregon House Republicans:

Transportation package includes key transparency and accountability features

Salem, Ore. – The multi-year, $5.3 billion transportation plan, which passed the House today on a 39-20 vote, includes provisions meant to strengthen transparency and accountability within Oregon’s transportation system. The package includes a restructuring of the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC), provisions to provide oversight of Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) operations, and key transparency and accountability mechanisms meant to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being managed wisely and invested prudently.

“Before we ask Oregon taxpayers to invest billions of additional dollars in our infrastructure, we owe it to them to demonstrate that we have a plan for making sure their money is being handled appropriately,” said Representative Andy Olson (R-Albany), who led the transportation accountability workgroup. “The voters must feel a perceived value exists for their investment. The oversight measures we were able to incorporate into this package will provide an increased level of transparency and accountability.”

Summary of accountability features included in HB 2017:

·         Places authority to hire ODOT director with OTC, rather than the Governor;

·         Governor may not fire transportation commissioner without public notice and hearing;

·         Requires OTC review and approval of certain transportation projects and require OTC to maintain web site providing estimated costs, timelines and other details relating specific projects;

·         Requires ODOT to perform cost benefit analysis of projects that exceed $15 million in total cost;

·         Establishes Continuous Improvement Advisory Committee, which will work with the Internal Auditor to monitor financial, performance and external key performance measures;

·         Creates Joint Committee on Transportation to provide legislative oversight of transportation agencies and progress of transportation package implementation.

 

 


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