Ron Wyden: I-205 toll not fair as primary funding approach

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The Portland Tribune is a media partner of KOIN 6

PORTLAND, OR (Portland Grandstand) – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden continued his regular series of town halls across Oregon, meeting with Clackamas County residents, elected officials and business leaders on Monday, January 24 to discuss a wide range of issues raised by members of the community.

Wyden praised Pamplin Media Group for providing the Milwaukie-area venue, then after some introductory remarks, began answering questions from voters. During the hour-long public forum hosted by the nonprofit The People’s Town Hall, Wyden updated voters on his efforts as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and discussed the potential impacts of a recently adopted decision. $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure billwhich he says will facilitate improved transportation and help with ongoing regional recovery efforts after destructive wildfires.

Wyden also answered a number of questions from community members regarding public health and safety, impending I-205 tolls, support for small businesses, climate change and more.

“There’s nothing better than having Oregonians look you in the eye and say what’s important to them,” said Wyden, who has held at least one town hall in each of Oregon’s 36 counties. Oregon every year since its first election to the Senate in 1996. .

The first question came from Catherine, a Clackamas County resident who shared that her family has been impacted by gun violence and asked the senator if he would support tougher policies to stem the growing problem.

Wyden replied that he had always believed in the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, but “that’s not something that precludes sensible, sensible gun reform.”

Wyden underscored his commitment to strengthening bipartisan partnerships around the adoption of measures regarding the accessibility and storage of firearms.

“We’re going to have to build a bipartisan coalition,” Wyden said. “If we can get the young people in the rural part of the state to become a new outright force, for common sense measures to address gun violence, that could give us the new energy to help break the impasse. .”

Wyden said as part of his efforts to support bipartisan alliances, he’s asking participants at each of his town halls in 2022 to name Oregon projects that “bring people together” to solve a challenge.

“Political change almost never starts in government buildings and trickles down. It’s almost always popular,” Wyden said. “So if you organize events to mobilize community leaders…to try to break the impasse, we will be there.”

The Democratic senator gave the example of his recent efforts with U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, to end the “fire loan” by demanding that wildfire prevention be funded from traditional sources , adding that he would do his best to support grassroots events promoting unity at a time of “polarization”.

A nature-related question came from Pete, a county resident who runs a white-water rafting business that has been impacted by the continued closure of public access to the Clackamas River in the Mt. Hood National Forest without clear timetable for reopening.

Wyden said he is currently working with the US Forest Service to continue wildlife relief efforts and will focus on supporting the safe return of people to their homes and businesses with the bipartisan infrastructure bill. .

“I’ve been to Clackamas, I’ve seen the devastation of 2020…hundreds of miles of roads need safety work, culvert repairs, bridges, tree removal,” Wyden said. “We are talking with the Forest Service about all these issues, where additional repairs need to be done and in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which just passed, I think we will have a chance to release some of the funds. which we need. for the job you’re talking about.

Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba joined Wyden in asking Wyden about federal support for climate change mitigation efforts amid uncertainty the Senate will pass the $2.2 trillion Build Back Better Act. the Biden administration, which contains sweeping incentives to reduce greenhouse gas pollutants.

Wyden, former chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he helped develop the foundation for Build Back Better seven years ago with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who currently holds the swing vote in the Senate also divided and said in December that it could not support the plan, raising doubts about the future of the bill.

Wyden said the bill’s fundamental climate premise increases tax incentives for businesses to reduce carbon emissions, a framework that is also the basis of his new Clean Energy Act for the United States. America which he said has so far received an encouraging level of support from the Senate.

Wyden said his goal was to ensure that “if you reduce carbon emissions, you can be part of the tax savings,” adding that a changed tax system would promote long-term incentives for clean energy. which may remain as expected despite the many variables of a changing climate.

Jeff Parrish, co-owner of Portland Cider Company, said his business has been running about 50% since the COVID-19 pandemic, but a saving grace was recently dropped. employee retention tax credit that he asked Wyden if he would support reinstatement.

The tax credit helped many small businesses keep their employees on the payroll for most of 2021, but was reversed in the fourth quarter of the year with the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill . House Bill 6161 was proposed to help retroactively compensate businesses harmed by the removal of the tax credit.

Wyden, who was one of the tax credit’s original sponsors, said he would do all he could to support businesses affected by the change and referenced his track record of advocating for small business issues. , including helping to draft the Paycheck Protection Program and a bill. reduce excessive taxes for craft beverage companies.

Paul, a retired Clackamas County businessman, expressed concern that many residents have echoed about the toll that is expected to hit sections of I-5 and I-205 in over the next five years, asking the senator to consider earmarking funds for freeway improvements instead of continuing with developments he says will “kill downtown Oregon City” by redirecting traffic.

“I think traditional tolling can be very regressive,” Wyden said, “and certainly put a burden on people, the backs of workers like your main approach doesn’t seem fair to me.”

The senator said the new infrastructure bill presents the metro area with a unique opportunity for a new tool in its toolbox to fund freeway improvements and that work must continue at the state and federal levels to smooth out fundraising best practices, but no official decision has been made on how the bill will be specifically used.

To watch the session in its entirety, click here.

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