Oregon state lawmakers seek bipartisanship, face budget challenges in next session

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 5:48 PM PST
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SALEM Ore. (KPTV) - 2023 is an odd year, meaning the time has come for Oregon lawmakers to convene for a “long session” which could last up to 160 days.

In these sessions, state lawmakers approve a new two-year state budget.

Issues like crime, housing, homelessness, and education will be a top priority this session, according to Oregon Senate leaders.

FOX 12 caught up with legislative leaders hours after Gov. Tina Kotek was inaugurated to hear their priorities.

Senator Kate Lieber, the new Senate Majority Leader says, passing impactful legislation addressing the priorities above is a must.

“We have to make sure that we are creating housing, and that we make sure that those who are on the streets right now are being treated with dignity and respect and that we are meeting their needs,” said Lieber. “A lot of that is behavioral health.”

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp says, he hopes his caucus will have a more productive session than under Gov. Kate Brown’s administration. Knopp says he hopes bipartisan solutions can be reached around building more housing to confront homelessness.

“Essentially streamlining the process to get units built and underway,” said Knopp. “That can’t happen soon enough. To the degree we can work together to do that, the better off all Oregonians are going to be.”

Front and center will be the state’s next budget, but state economists say this time around lawmakers will have $ 3 billion less in revenue to fund existing programs and new laws. Sen. Lieber says, while the state is heading into this fiscal year with a large reserve, tough choices will have to be made in the future.

“It’s going to be tough. We’re going to have to make decisions, we’re going to have to work together to figure out how we support all corners of Oregon,” said Lieber. “And we’re going to have to start listening to each other and then make a hard decision about what we’re not going to do.”

Lieber says it is premature to say what may or may not get cut from the state’s next budget. Knopp says he feels some state programs that were created in recent years may have to suffer financially, so education, public safety, and healthcare are not impacted.

“There’s lots of programs that were started with the greatest of intents,” said Knopp. “But we need to focus on the Oregonians who are already here and already struggling.”

Legislative business will officially begin on Tuesday, Jan. 17.