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Senator hosts town hall on budget

Looming state budget cuts will be addressed at a town hall meeting hosted in Hood River by Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, on Jan. 16.

The forum begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Hood River Valley Adult Center, 20210 Sterling Dr. The central topic for discussion will be the special legislative session in February to balance the budget which has a $720 million projected shortfall.

"We are in a crisis situation. Our priorities need to be in order as we head toward a special legislative session," said Metsger. "Balancing the budget will take a great deal of hard work, and citizen input is critical to this process."

He also welcomes his constituents to bring forward any other areas of concern related to state government and their community.

"I want to invite everyone in Hood River to join me at the senior center to talk about any issues or concerns they have," said Metsger.

In mid-December, Metsger brought top state leaders to Hood River for a special hearing of the Senate Economic and Job Stimulus Committee. The bi-partisan group was charged by Senate President Gene Derfler with seeking out solutions that would provide an immediate fix for Oregon's ailing economy and a long-term solution to help the state withstand future recessions.

After gathering public testimony and expert opinions at five separate forums, Metsger, who served as committee co-chair, said 270 action ideas were outlined in a special report that was finalized on Monday. He said the top three options were based on a "common theme" heard throughout the hearings:

Streamline the permitting process and eliminate unnecessary regulations that impede the establishment and growth of business.

Expand the bonding authority for transportation projects so that existing low-interest loans can be accessed-- a move that would add construction jobs and attract new industries.

Establish a "rainy day" fund to prepare for future budget shortages.

Metsger and co-chair Sen. Jason Atkinson, R-Jacksonville, have presented the final report to Derfler. They are now meeting with both House and Senate members, business leaders and other stakeholders to inform them of the report's findings prior to the February special session.

"The idea is to present this information to anyone who's interested in hearing it," said Metsger.

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