SALEM, Ore. (AP) — House Speaker Tina Kotek on Wednesday called for a special legislative session so lawmakers can allocate additional funds to help Oregonians struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the state’s budget situation has stabilized and since Congress is unlikely to pass another relief package this year, I urge the Governor to declare a catastrophic disaster so the legislature can convene a remote special session in December,” Kotek said in a statement.
The Portland Democrat said she is particularly interested in seeing the state spend $100 million to keep Oregonians housed and stabilize the rental market as the pandemic continues into 2021.
Kotek’s push for a special session came as the state’s latest revenue forecast was released Wednesday. It was essentially unchanged from the September estimate by the Oregon Office of Ecoomic Analysis, showing lawmakers would likely have $124 million more in tax revenue for this two-year budget period compared with the forecast three months ago.
The total adopted state budget for the 2019-21 biennium is about $86 billion.
Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday she is committed to exploring additional state-level solutions to assist Oregonians and Oregon’s businesses, including the hospitality industry, small businesses, and women, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and Tribal-owned and operated businesses.
“We need to utilize some portion of the state’s reserves as soon as possible to help struggling Oregonians and small businesses through the winter months,” Kotek said.
The state’s latest forecast projects “relatively stable state revenues,” Brown said.
“While this provides some sense of relief in uncertain times, we know that the sacrifices Oregon’s businesses are making right now to prevent the rapid community spread of COVID-19 will not be reflected until the next revenue forecast is released in January,” Brown said.
A two-week “freeze” to combat rising coronavirus cases in Oregon began Monday, which will further depress economic activity. Restaurants will be limited to take-out only, social gatherings of more than six people are banned and gyms and fitness centers, museums, pools, sports courts, movie theaters, zoos, gardens, aquariums and venues are be closed.
For weeks Brown has called on Congress to pass another COVID-19 relief package, which she said should immediately reinstitute the $600 supplemental benefit for unemployment and enhance federal employment compensation.
Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.