Bill could provide big bucks for Oregon’s rural infrastructure

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HB 5202 would allocate $100 million to rural infrastructure projects in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The remaining days of the 2022 Oregon legislative session are winding down and lawmakers are racing to vote on the remaining bills, including the session’s biggest budget bill, House Bill 5202.

The budget reconciliation bill allocates more than $1.4 billion from the general fund to cover a variety of things from affordable housing to education to workforce training.

Rep. David Gomberg, D-Central Coast, said he has no doubts this bill will pass. He has been particularly invested in the rural infrastructure projects he will fund after House Speaker Dan Rayfield D-Corvallis assigned him and three of his fellow Republicans to a task force to decide how they would spend $100 million on rural infrastructure projects.

“We didn’t sit down to see if it was a Democratic district or a Republican district. We looked at the type of project involved, the type of need that this project met. And I think we’ve been able to work very cooperatively and very effectively to move these issues forward for the state as a whole,” Gomberg said.

He said that small towns cannot afford big projects and that this bill will help them cover the cost of necessary improvements. It is expected to provide millions of dollars for fairgrounds infrastructure and fund dozens of water infrastructure projects, including allocating $10 million to the city of Clatskanie for its sewage treatment plant, 12 million to the town of Tillamook for a water transmission line. replacement and $15 million to Lakeview for a water treatment facility.

In Gomberg’s own district, the city of Waldport would receive $1.4 million to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant’s disinfection system. The Panther Creek Aquatic District in Otis is also on track to receive more than $16 million in funding. Oregon’s DEQ said the district is at risk of adverse impacts from the 2020 Echo Mountain Complex Fire.

“If you look through the details of this long, long bill, what you see is a water project in Mill City, a water project in Falls City, a water project in Merrill or Waldport or Lafayette,” Gomberg said. “These are very expensive items in small communities, and the only way to deal with them is with state assistance.”

Gomberg said Oregon is experiencing windfall revenue and has about $1.5 billion it didn’t expect to have. He said the surplus was partly the result of an unprecedented amount of money available from the federal government and more money from taxpayers.

HB 5202 is also expected to provide $400 million for affordable housing. This includes funds to purchase land to build affordable housing and to increase funding for the development of small affordable rental housing projects.

It will also allocate millions to homeless intervention and prevention services. For example, Multnomah County would receive $10 million for shelter services and infrastructure, sanitation services, and homeless outreach.

The bill also contributes more than $200 million to education services statewide.

It would fund efforts to provide higher pay rates for behavioral health residential care providers and workforce incentives for behavioral health employees. It would also provide $100 million from the general fund to increase behavioral health housing.

Gomberg said that if the bill passes, the timing of the distribution of funds could depend on the project being funded or the source of the funding, whether federal or state or lottery fund.

The bill will supplement current funding in place for the biennium ending June 30, 2023.

HB 5202 has advanced through the Joint Ways and Means Committee and is now being read from the floor of the House. Gomberg is confident the bill will pass if it comes to a vote. However, what could stand in the way of the bill is the reading of the bill. The detailed version of the bill is 114 pages long and could take hours to read on the floor in every room.

Lawmakers have until late March 7 to vote on bills.

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