January 14, 2022

The Board of County Commissioners voted on Thursday, Jan.13, 2022 to approve the Multnomah County 2022 State Legislative Agenda. The County’s priorities will focus on safety net services, equity in justice, the environment, supporting public health and revenue.

The Oregon Legislature convenes annually and this year will be holding a short session, which can last up to 35 days. The session will begin Feb.1 and will end by Mar. 8. Following COVID-19 protocols, the upcoming session will be mostly virtual with in-person floor sessions.

Jeston Black, left, with Taylor Steenblock, both with the County's Office of Government Relations brief commissioners Jan. 13, 2022.

Jeston Black, Multnomah County director of government relations, told Commissioners during Thursday’s board meeting that after the start of Covid last year, there was an expectation for the state revenue to drop at least 20%. 

“Instead, we’ve seen a real boom in the economy,” said Black. 

Aside from this, Oregon is expecting a $1.9 billion tax surplus, which will trigger the “kicker,” for the 2021 tax year as well as an additional $755 million in funds for the current 2021-2023 biennium.

“We don’t have any big policy bills we’re bringing forward during the 2022 Legislative session, and spending most of our time on the budget,” said Black. “We had an incredibly successful 2021 legislative session.”

Some outcomes of the 2021 State Legislative Session included improvements to Oregon's funding of Behavioral Health and Public Health, and the elimination of fines and fees for probation, both for adults and youth. 

The Multnomah County Commissioners showed their appreciation and support for this year’s legislative agenda. 

“I really appreciate the work that we’ll be doing in the public health realm and behavioral health realm,” said Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson.

Commissioner Lori Stegmann said, “I am really appreciative of getting the wage rate up for behavioral health workers. As we know, it is almost impossible to hire folks.”

“I am very glad to hear that behavioral health continues to be prioritized,” said Commissioner Sharon Meieran.

“I know it’s going to be another successful session, everything on the list is worth noting,” said Commissioner Susheela Jayapal.

Chair Deborah Kafoury thanked the Office of Government Relations, “I want to give you a real shout out. We don’t see all that work that goes on behind the scenes.” 

2022 State Legislative List of Budget Priorities

Safety Net Services

  • Protect Oregon Health Plan. 
  • Expansion on Behavioral Health.
  • Expansion on Older Adults Support and Services.
  • Advocating for an increase in wages for the Behavioral Health Workforce to retain and recruit more professionals. 

Equity in Justice

  • Support funding to keep the justice system.
  • Improve the funding formula for juvenile justice education services.

Protecting the Environment

  • Support the regulations to make the Critical Energy Infrastructure in the neighborhood more resilient. 
  • Support the Governor’s bill to create the Environmental Justice Council. 

Public Health

  • Continue to support and advocate for a more robust public health system.

Revenue

  • Support a reform system to create more equitable property taxes and fees for everybody.