SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon lawmakers gathered in Salem on Wednesday for the opening of the 79th Legislative Session.
They face a daunting task, balancing a budget that begins with a gap of nearly two billion dollars between revenue and the cost to keep programs running at current levels.
Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a democratic leader representing Portland and Beaverton, says part of the problem is less money from the federal government.
“Oregon’s economy is fortunately doing very well and we should be proud of that. However when the federal government sees an economy doing well they decrease our federal match rate for our categorical Medicaid population,” she said.
Many democrats say it will take a mix of new taxes and program cuts to make up the difference.
Republican Minority Leader, Representative Mike McLane from Powell Butte, said, not so fast.
“The Republicans have been sticking to the view that…with 30 percent more revenue over the last few bienniums. I mean we have more money than we’ve ever had before. That this is not a revenue problem this is a spending problem,” he said.
Some of the other big issues facing lawmakers over the next 160 days include affordable housing, fixing and building new roads and bridges, and reforms to the public employees retirement plan.
In the afternoon, demonstrators stood on the steps of the capitol and denounced President Trump's orders on immigration.
Immigrant rights rally in Salem at State Capitol building. pic.twitter.com/ki4MrLNzf2— Pat Dooris (@PatDooris) February 1, 2017