Nonpartisan Questions for Oregon Senate District 3 Candidates
From the Rogue Action Center
Oregon Senate District 3 voters deserve specific commitments from candidates, regardless of party, instead of “trust me” rhetoric that too often results in policies that benefit only corporate special interests and the wealthiest elites.
No list can include every important issue that will come before the Oregon legislature in the next two years, but answers to this questionnaire will give voters a good picture of the type of commitments each candidate is willing to make.
Note: Questionnaires were sent to all candidates who filed with the Oregon Secretary of State by the deadline for the 2018 May Primary, and to the incumbent, Alan Deboer.
Sen. DeBoer and candidates Curt Ankerberg and Jessica Gomez declined to respond to the questionnaire.
Candidate responses appear as submitted, they have not been edited.
The Rogue Action Center does not endorse candidates for public office.
1 - Stable rentsIn Jackson County, one in every three renters – and three-quarters of low-income renters – are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent. In the 2017 legislative session, the proposed HB 2004 would have limited landlords with five or more units from evicting tenants without cause (landlords could evict with cause or in the case of exceptions, such as selling the property or a family member moving into it). It also would have allowed cities and counties to adopt policies on the rate of rent increases.
What is your view of this proposed legislation, as well as other specific state actions to protect tenants, stabilize the rental market, and address homelessness with housing solutions?
JULIAN BELL: Fixing the housing crisis will require building more housing or ending our extreme income inequality. Short term I support ending no-cause evictions. If a tenant is going to be evicted, they have some right to know why.
Local jurisdictions should have more authority to determine local rental practices. Rent control is a reasonable strategy, although I believe it should have a limited time frame.
Short term homelessness should be addressed with shelters and social support programs. Long term homelessness should be addressed with a housing first strategy. These should be established and administered by the state, as they would be financially for-loss projects with important social value. The state or local government could build for profit housing to offset the cost of for-loss housing. This might be able to be done by the state developing state owned land. I would not expand urban growth boundaries.
ATHENA GOLDBERG: No one should have to worry about being forced out of their house on the whim of someone else. The proposed HB 2004 is a good start, protecting renters’ rights from aggressive landlords will help curb the rise in rents. However, this bill will only be a stopgap measure.
Truly the best way to reduce the cost of housing is to increase the supply of housing. We’re seeing some promising innovations in housing options, like the tiny house villages, that could both offer a solution for Oregonians and reduce the environmental impact of increasing housing options.
Legislation designed to integrate homes of various sizes in new neighborhoods, subsidize the building of smaller homes, enabling individuals to own homes of their own, at a size that is convenient for them, would go great lengths to counteracting the increase in rental prices.
JEFF GOLDEN: I would have voted for HB 2004 to start to redress the severe power imbalance between tenants and landlords.
But a bigger crisis is the affordability of decent housing for working Oregonians these days, a symptom of the stagnancy of wages as other basic costs rise (a macro-economic problem that has to be addressed if we want housing reform to be more that partial band-aids). I favor measures to increase rental dwelling supply, including incentives for backyard ADUs and liberalizing codes to encourage tiny homes in self-governing village formats, like this.
And it may be time for another shot at real estate transfer tax to create a rental subsidy fund.
I have some concerns about the unintended consequences of rent control (potentially hurting the population it’s designed to help), but localities should be free to come to make those decisions without pre-emption by the state.
KEVIN STINE: There are 0 renters in the Oregon State Senate, and I’m attempting to be the first. I understand the issue because I have seen my own rent rise from $800 to over $1,000 in just a few years.
I believe we need to give municipalities more options so they can figure out what works best in their communities. Medford and Ashland may come up with different paths to address their housing issues, while Phoenix and Talent might choose different paths from them. As it stands, the State doesn’t give many tools to cities and we are seeing big problems across our state.
I support giving cities the option to utilize rent stabilization. I support loosening of land use laws to allow for more tiny homes for transitional housing, such as Hope Village, which I have championed as a Medford City Councilor.
2 - Affordable housing
In 2016, the Oregon legislature restored the right of cities and counties to require that at least 20% of new developments be affordable units, provided that developers are provided specified financial incentives to do so. The legislature decided, however, to make this “inclusionary zoning” law apply only to multifamily structures of 20 units or more – larger than most new development in Jackson County.
What is your view of whether this is an appropriate way to help increase the supply of housing that working and low-income people can afford, and what changes, if any, would you make in its provisions?
JULIAN BELL: Specified financial incentives sounds like subsidizing developers to build housing. Real estate development is already very lucrative, it doesn’t seem to be the taxpayer’s responsibility to make it more lucrative. It seems to me that the only way out of the housing crisis is for the state to build and manage housing.
I can’t imagine the bill described above which applies to developments of 20 units or more will increase the supply of affordable housing in Jackson County. As a for-profit developer, if you are building only a few units of housing, why would you build affordable housing when you could potentially build luxury housing for greater profit? If you have to chose between building 19 luxury units or 20 units with 20% designated as affordable housing, which developer would build a 20 unit dwelling?
ATHENA GOLDBERG: The Legislature’s actions to make housing affordable has mostly effected Portland—little has been done for the people of Southern Oregon. Here in Jackson County we need to step in and offer incentives that make developers want to offer housing to low income renters. There is a lot of space on the edges of the Rogue Valley. Instead of building new, inefficient suburbs, the space could be used to offer environmentally friendly housing options, either apartment buildings or tiny houses. We should also be building up and not just out. To do this, our downtown cores should be revitalized by integrating new living spaces and apartments with our historic business centers.
We can do this as simply as having the county/city zone areas specifically for these types of housing. But, we must ensure this does not lead to segregation. This should be done with careful consideration and a transparent process.
JEFF GOLDEN: I’d go further: cities and counties should be free to enact affordable unit requirements at whatever percentage, and with or without financial incentives, they choose. That includes applying it to structures under 20 units as well. Limiting this authority is about the clout of Salem lobbies, not good public policy. Making rents affordable depends in part on increasing the overall rental stock, and this is one rational way to do it.
KEVIN STINE: The inclusionary zoning law that was passed by the legislature, effectively made it so only Portland could have inclusionary zoning. Like I stated in the previous question, we must give cities more options. Inclusionary zoning may not work every city, but the cities should have the choice.
In Medford, we’re currently looking at a Construction Excise Tax, which has been successful in Bend, to help develop more affordable housing. This is a rather small tax which is just one-third of 1% of the cost. This money can then be leveraged with State and Federal grants to bring even more money to Southern Oregon. Medford could potentially gain thousands of new affordable units in the coming years.
3 - Corporate taxes to fund education
Since the mid-1970s, the share of all state income taxes that comes from corporations has dropped by two-thirds. In Jackson County, school districts that depend on state funding often face overcrowded class sizes, teacher layoffs, and other cutbacks. The Education Investment Initiative introduced in the 2017 legislature would have raised $2 billion per two-year budget cycle, primarily for education from early childhood through college, through a tax on the largest corporations, many of them from out of state.
What is your view of the proposed Education Investment Initiative, as well as other specific ways to provide our schools with increased, stable, and equitable funding?
JULIAN BELL: We should increase the corporate income tax rate. However, the proportion of Oregon’s tax revenue that is made up of corporate income tax is already larger than the national average. Our state (despite voting down a sales tax 9 times in 90 years) needs a sales tax. One that might work is a tax on on-line retail sales. Even Donald Trump agrees that Amazon is killing small tax paying retailers. It is also killing retail jobs. In the meantime a change in corporate income tax policy intended to fund our school system is a good idea.
ATHENA GOLDBERG: Any way we can get more money into our education system is worth considering. We have been dealing with problems in our education system for such a long time. It is unconscionable that the Legislature still keeps cutting education spending.
We must increase funding for Oregon’s education system, such as by a tax on corporations that make their money in Oregon. This would fund education for our children and makes these companies give back to the communities they are based in. I will push to increase education funding and will not take any funding mechanisms off the table.
JEFF GOLDEN: The EII is one of the most intelligently designed, well-balanced plans I’ve seen that has the potential of raising revenue on the scale needed. I’d advocate for it strongly. A big part of its strength is the inclusion of cost containment to the tune of $650M per biennium (including the beginnings of a viable solution to PERS liabilities), which makes it much more attractive and credible to political moderates and to businesses with any sense of mission or vision, or appreciation of the benefits they enjoy from good public education. Another feature adding to its appeal is strategic targeting of funds towards teacher training, greater equity initiatives, nutrition and other wraparound services and preschool opportunities. This makes solid sense. Count me in.
KEVIN STINE: There was no bigger failure that the legislature had, than the failure to come up with a viable plan to increase revenue through increasing corporate taxes. I support business, but the numbers tell the story that corporations should pay their fair share.
As far as the Education Investment Initiative, I’m not sure that Speaker Kotek still supports the proposal. It appears that it was created in large part to attempt to draw Republicans to vote to increase revenue, by giving guidance on where that revenue would go. It obviously didn’t work.
Education funding should be increased, but I don’t agree with putting 75% of all new revenue into it. There are too many variables at play and vital services such as the Oregon Health Plan that need to be funded.
4 - Tax reform
Oregon provides a special ”pass-through income” tax break, 94% of which goes to corporate executives, consultants, and other professionals who make more than $200,000 a year. This loophole already is estimated to take away nearly $300 million in future budget periods from funding for education, health care, foster care, and other essential services. In December, Congress passed a bill that greatly increases the incentive for the wealthiest Oregonians to take advantage of this loophole, meaning the loss in state funding for local services will grow even faster. In 2017, Gov. Kate Brown proposed eliminating this loophole.
What is your view on keeping or eliminating this tax provision, and on other specific state actions to ensure that everyone pays their fair share to fund essential services?
JULIAN BELL: Eliminate it.
ATHENA GOLDBERG: There is no reason that the wealthiest among us should pay such low percentages on their profits. I support eliminating this loophole and getting that $300 million back so we can invest in our state.
As a state we need to respond to the changes to the federal tax code by ensuring that, at least, companies that do business in Oregon are paying their fair share.
JEFF GOLDEN: The pass-through is the product of lobby power, not reasoned policy, and should be eliminated. More generally, Oregon needs a more progressive and productive tax system—we’re near the lead in the Race to the Bottom (Money-zine magazine ranks Oregon the 11th friendliest state to corporations in taxation) Measure 97 in 2016 was a reasonable solution, and its fate (a 60-40% loss after corporate lobbies spent $28 million to defeat it) demonstrates the political challenge facing it. Rather than throw out a Bright New Idea, I plan to huddle in Salem with the dedicated progressives who’ve learned from past defeats and lend all of my support to the next effort, statutory or initiative, for progressive taxation. Quality education, job development and social programs depend on our success.
KEVIN STINE: The bill mentioned was part of the 2013 “grand bargain”. The provision’s purpose was to help small business, and instead primarily went to the wealthy few. I support the repeal, but I would like to use some of the savings to find a way to actually do the original goal of helping small businesses.
5 - Racial justice and immigrant rights
More than 30 years ago, the Oregon legislature passed with nearly unanimous support from both major parties a law that leaves it to the federal government to enforce immigration laws and requires that state and local funds by used only for other law enforcement.
What is your view on whether Oregon should keep this law, and on other specific state actions in relation to immigration and racial justice?
JULIAN BELL: If Oregon took up the responsibility of policing immigration, I do not think it would change the federal laws, although it would presumably cost the state more. We are already barely meeting our law enforcement financial obligations. In Portland for example we rely on volunteers to fill out the police ranks.
I think immigrants need a path to citizenship. I also think anyone in Oregon should be able to get a driver’s license with proof of residence only.
I think services such as universal health care, support for food bills, provision of affordable housing as well as decriminalizing non-violent offences, would provide a better quality of life for people of color and minorities that would also make it easier for them to participate in the mainstream economy.
ATHENA GOLDBERG: I am proud that Oregon has had this law in effect for so long. Most immigrants are in this country to find a better life for themselves and they should be given that chance. This last year has made it abundantly clear that we still have a long road to travel towards equality in our hearts and minds. I will work to support any ideas that protect people from hatred and will fight to bring enlightenment to the bigoted in our communities.
On the other hand, state and local law enforcement are already stretched thin enough without adding the responsibilities of the Federal Government to their plates. These men and women should, and would prefer to, be protecting our communities from dangerous individuals, not wasting their time harassing hard working, contributing members of our communities.
JEFF GOLDEN: I see no reason to change that law, and strongly oppose spending Oregon resources in support of the current federal administration’s punitive and irrational campaign against immigrants, documented and otherwise. In the current xenophobia-encouraging climate, the state may need to be more vigilant in deterring hate crimes and race-based law enforcement violations, and in assuring equal rights for minorities in employment, housing and public accommodations. Efforts to deny undocumented immigrants the right to drive and carry insurance are knee-jerk reactions that undermine the public interest, and information on these people when they register for a license must be protected from federal immigration authorities. To the extent that state legislators have any influence in Congress, I would lend my weight to lobbying efforts for more rationale and humane immigration policy.
KEVIN STINE: In 1987, HB 2314 passed the State Senate 29-1 and the House 58-1. That bill made Oregon a “sanctuary state”. It was good policy then, and it is good policy now. The law protects people from any type of “show me your papers” law enforcement.
What has changed since that nearly unanimous support, is not the law being bad. What has changed, is that one political party has discovered that saying derogatory things to people with brown skin, helps them gain support. Oregon Democrats stand strong to not give in to Donald Trump-style ignorance regarding Sanctuary Cities and Sanctuary States, and instead continue to support the bipartisan law of 1987.
6 - Paid family and medical leave
A proposal in the 2017 legislature (HB 3087) would have created a family and medical leave insurance program to provide all workers in Oregon with paid leave for the birth of a child, an illness of their own or of a family member, or military service, without losing the income their family relies on.
What is your view of this proposed legislation, and of other possible state actions related to the workplace?
JULIAN BELL: I support this proposal. I think it will allow more people to work, it will make families stronger and support child development, and will also allow people to take care of a sick family member without risking losing their jobs. The bill will collect funds from the employee and employer. It is an insurance system. An ideal arrangement.
ATHENA GOLDBERG: It is unconscionable that Oregonians lose their jobs or are forced into bankruptcy because of illness or pregnancy. I support and will continue to be an advocate for these kinds of common sense worker protection laws.
JEFF GOLDEN: The US is embarrassingly behind the rest of the developed world on paid family leave, which clearly contributes to family cohesion and a strong social fabric. I support this legislation, with one concern. I hesitate to mandate more overhead for small, locally owned businesses that operate on a tight margin. We need them to flourish to create sustainable jobs that aren’t at the mercy of corporate accountants thousands of miles away. I’m strongly interested in advancing the potential shifting of an estimated $15 trillion “from Wall Street to Main Street,” potentially one of the most impactful steps towards economic justice, and I don’t want to make the tough odds against local entrepreneurial success even tougher. So I might look for some flexibility for small local businesses.
KEVIN STINE: This was a well-written bill that has my support. The Democratic Party values families. Allowing up to 12 weeks of paid leave promotes that. I believe that we should also work on other issues for working families. Most notably we should assist in a better childcare system so parents that are going to work or school are not overburdened with the cost.
7 - Jobs and climate action
Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs Act would establish a financial incentive, similar to one used in other states, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the largest polluters and use the money to create jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency in rural areas like ours.
What is your view of the Clean Energy Jobs Act and other possible state actions on climate change?
JULIAN BELL: I have been advocating for this bill since its original iteration in 2015 as HB 3470. I support it and any similar efforts to cap and decrease carbon pollution and / or greenhouse gas production, as well as any efforts to sequester carbon, which the legislature I hope will be getting to in the not-too-distant future. In the last 3+ years have spent a lot of my own money and time trying to push it into the front and center of the legislator’s desks. It is the primary reason I am running for office, which has also separately taken a lot of time and money. If there are other things you think would help push this bill forward that I could do, please let me know.
ATHENA GOLDBERG: We are long past due for passing this legislation. This bill encourages responsible actions by corporations without punishing them. It will make Oregon even more attractive to new green businesses, helping Oregon be a leader in green tech and jobs and stimulating our economy.
JEFF GOLDEN: Our decades of dithering on effective climate action is simply generational neglect. It’s past time to make the fossil fuel sector pay the long-term environmental, social and human health costs it has foisted onto the rest of us. The CEJA is a well-crafted step in that direction. I’ll work hard to get it passed and implemented in effective ways. Three things are important as it moves forward: 1) to hold economically disadvantaged Oregonians harmless as near-term fossil fuel prices rise, 2) to resist trading off so many loopholes/exemptions for votes that the final version is more symbolic than substantive and 3) to realize that this merely realigns market incentives in a fairer and more rational way, and that MUCH more action is needed on climate. From now on deliberation on most bills should include the question “How does this affect Oregon’s progress towards zero GHG emissions?”
KEVIN STINE: I’m very cautiously supportive. My main concern is with how this will impact people’s power bills. Any increase in power bills will affect the working class, and those with fixed incomes. As I see at ACCESS, those people are the most vulnerable and just a slight increase can make their life decisions even more difficult. They are already facing issues with rent increases and food price increases. I would welcome more data to be fully supportive. Also, No LNG pipeline in Southern Oregon!