Oregon lawmakers began the 2017 legislative session with the objective of finding bipartisan agreement on a historic transportation package to address Oregon’s aging infrastructure, reduce congestion and improve transit services in the state. A 14-member bipartisan and bicameral committee was formed and met throughout 2016 and 2017 to develop comprehensive legislation, the largest ever contemplated in Oregon and the first transportation funding package since 2009.
Any successful package needed to address concerns from myriad stakeholders, including environmental advocates, truckers, AAA and low-income and vulnerable population advocates. In addition, CFM’s client, Salem-Keizer Transit, and other transit stakeholders were concerned that transit investments, and the method for paying for them, would be seen as too controversial and left on the cutting room floor. How do you develop a package robust enough to provide transportation investments throughout the state, including Oregon’s first stable funding source for transit, while also keeping costs low enough to not anger fiscal hawks and stakeholders concerned with rising gas taxes?
Working with transit advocates and our client, CFM helped execute a comprehensive messaging and advocacy strategy that ensure transit was a key component of any package and focused on stamping down opposition based on fears of regressivity and equity. That included regular attendance at public hearings throughout Oregon during 2016 and 2017 where transit voices and riders could communicate their needs to leaders. It also included a strong legislative presence where those benefiting from future enhanced transit services resulting from the package could educate lawmakers on the dire need around Oregon. Utilizing those existing and powerful voices in a strategic manner, while also keeping up pressure on lawmakers, was an effective method of engagement.
HB 2017 passed with comfortable margins in both chambers and was signed into law 30 days post session. Strategic efforts resulted in transit being one of the least controversial portions of the transportation package due to the benefits investments will bring to low-income and vulnerable populations in the decades to come. This package resulted in transit finally obtaining a dedicated statewide funding source for services – something sought after for years.