State Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell faced calls during a town hall at Clatsop Community College on Sunday to push her colleagues for more education funding and taxes on corporations.
Mitchell’s town hall came as the state Legislature is crafting a two-year budget. The budget of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, released last week, includes nearly $8.9 billion for K-12 education, an 8 percent increase and enough to cover service levels.
But educators in attendance Sunday said the committee’s budget, which is less than the $9 billion requested by Gov. Kate Brown, falls well short of providing what students and teachers need.
Mitchell, D-Astoria, agreed with concerns over funding for education and other essential services but said a lot depends on being able to raise more revenue.
“Based off of what we have right now, there isn’t a lot of room to grow at the moment, especially since there are indications we’re on kind of a downward (economic) trend,” she said.
Much of the attention at the town hall was toward putting more pressure on state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, a co-chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means and one of the most powerful state legislators.
Johnson was called out by some for not supporting Measure 97, an unsuccessful ballot measure for a gross receipts tax in 2016. Jan Mitchell, a local organizer, asked Mitchell how to get through to legislators like Johnson about the lack of funding for social services and the need to make more revenue from private timberland owners and other corporations.
Rep. Mitchell called on people to rally around specific legislation, push it with their legislators and show up to Salem with their stories. As for raising revenue, she supported Measure 97, but said not every legislator felt the same way about raising taxes on corporations.
Mitchell shared her hopes for legislation this session to ban single-use plastic bags and polystyrene, while discouraging the use of disposable plastic straws.
She heard from people concerned about the fees related to opting out of Pacific Power’s new smart power meters, and from a parent worried about being mandated to get her child vaccinated.
Mitchell voiced her support for state House Bill 2020, which would create the nation’s first carbon cap-and-trade program.
The Georgia-Pacific Wauna Mill is the largest single employer in Clatsop County and would be affected by the legislation. Kristi Ward, a spokeswoman for the mill, called the cap-and-trade proposal one of the most concerning pieces of legislation she’s ever seen.
“We work very hard to make our mill more competitive in an environment that every year gets more and more competitive, and you see more and more paper mills shutting down,” she said.
There are mills in the Midwest that already ship into Wauna Mill’s market west of the Rocky Mountains without the added cost of capping carbon emissions, Ward said. “Pennies matter per case, basically,” she said.
The cap-and-trade bill is not being put together without talking to communities around the state, Mitchell said. She pointed out how the proposed legislation would greatly increase the cap initially on carbon emissions for energy-intensive facilities like the Wauna Mill.
“I think that while obviously what you said, ‘Pennies on each box,’ does mean something, they are definitely trying to figure out a way of trying to help those industries who have a competitive issue there,” Mitchell said.