Representative Nancy Nathanson (D-Ore.), with the strike of a gavel, began the Oregon State Ways and Means meeting at 2 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 25 to a chorus of applause from local community members and organizations at Lane Community College. The three meeting rooms quickly filled, reaching standing-room only — many community members sat on stairs and floors between aisles.
Lane’s technology support wired up large-screen monitors to stream the meeting to overflow rooms.
The Ways and Means Committee oversees Oregon’s revenue and monitors how monies are allocated within the state.
Oregon has accrued a deficit of $1.8 billion, threatening budget cuts for programs and community services statewide. In order for Oregon to continue running the way it has, revenue must be generated to fill the gap.
Individuals representing community organizations and services signed in before entering the meeting. Each hopeful speaker was asked to sign their names, and proposed discussion topic, on clipboards before entering the meeting rooms. Only a portion of the 200 people who signed up to speak were able to speak as a result of the meeting scheduled for only two hours.
As the meeting began, the committee chose a variety of topics to cover from each clipboard, randomly picked to ensure a diverse amount of topics would be testified to. The committee would then randomly pick from the designated clipboard for different topics. Testimonials voiced at the meeting were diverse , but all shared a common thread — budget cuts.
“Vet services will be cut 80 percent, where other general fund services will be cut four percent as proposed in the governor’s budget proposal,” Mike Barker, veterans service officer, said.
Jim Matthews, an officer put in charge of a military base, known as the Post Commander added, “It (Measure 96) was not intended to be the sole funding for veteran services, as it states in the voter pamphlet, it was intended to be additional funding for veteran services where the general fund fell short.”
Three participants were called at a time and given two minutes to speak. An additional three people were then called to sit on deck.
The entire audience was asked not to applaud, or make any other interruptions, to ensure the greatest amount of people could testify in the short two minutes allowed. As individuals spoke, many onlookers held signs brought from home with the words “agree” or “disagree” on each side. The sign(s) would be flipped to show approval or disdain.
At times, many would raise hands and wiggle their fingers, the hand sign for applause used in International Sign Language.
Nathanson told attendees that tehy could submit additional comments to the Oregon Ways and Means website. “There they become a matter of public record and are posted online.”
Lane Community College was the sixth stop for the Ways and Means Roadshow. A total of 7 cities are planned, the last stop is Friday March 3 at Port of Tillamook.