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Entries in Cliff Bentz (2)


Steady Recovery Shadowed by Steady Decline

Oregon's economy continues its steady improvement, but rural economic fortunes reveal a steady, continuing decline as young workers head to the city to find good-paying jobs.The latest quarterly Oregon economic report didn't contain any splashy news, but it does reconfirm that many Oregonians, especially in rural areas, continue to slip on the U.S. economic treadmill.

The main message is that overall economic recovery — and the tax revenue it generates — is proceeding at a steady, if slower-than-hoped-for, rate.

The report also showed a steady downward spiral in the economic fortunes of poorer Oregonians and of Oregonians that may be tumbling out of the middle class s a result of the aftershocks of the last recession.

Nowhere is the steady decline more apparent than in rural parts of Oregon, according to state economists Mark McMullen and Josh Lehner. They say younger rural residents who are entering their prime earning years are choosing to move to urban areas to chase their fortunes. That, in turn, the economists explain, could lead to a death spiral for the areas they leave.

Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, said the exodus is already underway. He blamed federal and state natural resources policies for squeezing the life out of rural economies and leaving rural wage-earners with "nothing to do."

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Jobs Bills in the Mix

In a short legislative session dominated by budget concerns and Governor Kitzhaber's ambitious reform efforts in health care, education and early learning, jobs bills have taken a back seat. But that doesn't mean they won't make it to the finish line.

There are major bills to coordinate the state's economic development activity, create more enterprise zones and reduce temporarily Oregon's capital gains tax rate. And there is legislation to clarify how and when to tax data centers such as Facebook's that were prize catches by previous economic development recruitment.

Here is a quick overview of some of the significant jobs-related legislation in Salem:

House Bill 4040: Drafted by two influential legislators — Reps. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, and Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, along with State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, the Oregon Investment Act seeks to align state economic development programs and incentives to make them more inviting to private sector companies. The measure has passed out of the House Transportation Committee, so remains alive.

Read, Bentz and Wheeler co-authored an op-ed in The Oregonian explaining their intentions:

"Oregon spends significant Oregon Lottery profits and other funds today to enhance business development. Yet those tools are scattered across multiple agencies and have little strategic connection, and sometimes have little accountability to measure results.

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