Rep. Yunker on Session: What was funded, what wasn’t

By Oregon State Representative Dwayne Yunker

$65,000,000 for Project Turnkey. $25,000,000 for the Albina Vision Trust. $7,000,000 for the Urban League of Portland. $7,500,000 for housing and legal skills training for so-called “individuals accused of a crime”. $2,500,000 for something called “culturally responsive” youth violence prevention.

2024 Oregon State Legislature Short Session

These are just some of the programs funded by the Oregon State Legislature during the 2024 short session which wrapped up on March 7. Oregon Democrats claim this stuff is “housing infrastructure” and “drug recriminalization.” Learn more here and here.

The bills did fund some legitimate infrastructure and law-enforcement projects. But just a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars added to Oregon’s 2023-25 biennium budget will actually be spent on easing housing restrictions and keeping drugs off the streets. Most of the spending is for blue big-city special interests.

What wasn’t funded

None of the Josephine County infrastructure projects I fought for this session were funded. I’ve been told that if I’d “played the game” in Salem, I could have brought more money home to my district. Legislative funding decisions are made by the co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, a Portland Democrat and a Salem Democrat. “Playing the game” is code for voting with the Democrats on the legislation they want to call bipartisan.

What was funded

$95,399,999 for the Clackamas County Courthouse. $64,000,000 for day care. $15,196,461 for the Hillsboro Hops Ballpark. $10,000,000 for something called “private forest accord mitigation grants.” $8,000,000 for Business Oregon’s Economic Equity Investment Fund. $4,000,000 for the Latino Network for the La Plaza Esperanza service hub. $2,555,175 for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. $2,445,865 for Oregon “climate action” projects. $2,000,000 for “newcomer” support services. $1,000,000 for the Coalition of African and African American Pastors.

What does this mean

These are just a few of the programs funded in the end-of-session “Christmas tree” bill. Learn more here. The name tells you all you need to know. Most of it is for counterproductive progressive pet projects. But there are a few specific categories worth calling out.

Programs that were too controversial to pass as stand-alone bills

In committee, my fellow Republicans and I called out Business Oregon’s Economic Equity Investment Fund as racially discriminatory and unconstitutional. The Democrats changed a few words and quietly funded the program anyway. Oregon taxpayers will be on the hook for the lawsuits.

Programs to make temporary federal COVID relief permanent and paid for by the state

During the COVID shutdown, cultural institutions such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Portland Art Museum, and the like received federal relief funding. Now these institutions want perpetual government funding, and they came to Salem to get it. Most of these places have shifted to art that is unappealing to mainstream Oregonians, and they don’t want to bear the consequences of being accountable to their customers.

Programs passed last session but not properly funded

During the 2023 long session, legislators passed bills without properly funding them. It’s a common occurrence: pass now, pay later. Last year’s expansion of eligibility to state-funded day care is the biggest example. But of course the pass now, pay later plan continued during the 2024 short session. And Oregon taxpayers will be on the hook.

What’s next

Immediately after the short session ended, the Oregon Democrat mouthpieces published a deluge of news stories about “Kicker reform”. The Dems say “a simple Democratic majority isn’t enough.” Why?

Oregon Democrats want to raise taxes, implement a statewide property tax, steal the “Kicker” refund, and more. They want more power. They know their woke programs are burning dollar bills. Their spending spree is totally unsustainable.

What can we do

Until we restore balance in the legislature, we are very limited in what we can do. But for the first time in a long time there are swing districts in play this year in unlikely places like Portland, Salem, Eugene, and Bend. Republicans need a serious get-out-the-vote effort. Concentrate efforts in these places. All hands on deck.

Short session wrap up

Digging in and threatening to raise holy hell with voters worked to get us a few parental-rights wins this session. Senate Bill 1583 that would have decimated school district local control and House Bill 4070 to use lottery funds to put Planned Parenthood-affiliated school-based health centers in more schools were squashed, temporarily.

But Oregon Democrats got every big-spending bill they wanted this session, without any compromise. Their agenda puts Oregonians’ lives and livelihoods at risk.

Let’s take for example the Dems fake fix to address Oregon’s very real drug crisis. Common sense and looking at the drug policies in states across the nation tells us that the Democrats’ “treatment first” plan isn’t enough. Deterrence is necessary. Deterrence prevents harm, before it happens. It’s the safest approach.

My invitation

Much more work needs to be done to get Oregon back on track. Republicans have a plan to address what matters most to Oregonians: housing and homelessness, ending the drug crisis, a more prosperous economy, and safety for Oregon families. Enough is enough. It’s time to get back to basics. We must restore balance to the legislature. Elections matter. Join us.