Web chat with Sen. Bruce Starr
10:27
The Oregonian: 
Good morning, everyone. I'm George Rede, Opinion editor at the Hillsboro Argus and Forest Grove Leader.

Welcome to today's live chat with Sen. Bruce Starr of Hillsboro, representing Senate District 15.

We'll get started momentarily. We welcome your questions and comments. A couple of reminders. Keep it civil. No name-calling. And try to be concise. That helps when we're trying to accommodate as many questions as we do.

Thanks.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:27 The Oregonian
10:31
[Comment From Shoshana EdwardsShoshana Edwards: ] 
Good morning, Senator. Could you please outline in specifics what you and your staff are doing to identify and correct waste in the State Government?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:31 Shoshana Edwards
10:33
SenBruceStarr: 
I've sponsored a senate bill (SB 299) that would sunset each state agency, this would allow the legislature to do in-depth analysis and insure that programs are fulfilling their legislative mandate. there's also a house bill that I testified on yesterday that does the same thing.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:33 SenBruceStarr
10:33
[Comment From Shoshana EdwardsShoshana Edwards: ] 
Sen. Starr, Oregon provides for many loopholes in its Corporate Tax Code, such as allowing profits to be retained in a foreign country, allowing for different methods of reporting inventory, etc. What are you doing to identify and close those loopholes? And if you aren't working to close them, could you explain why?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:33 Shoshana Edwards
10:34
The Oregonian: 
While Sen. Starr is preparing a response to the question, other readers are invited to submit their own questions, too.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:34 The Oregonian
10:36
SenBruceStarr: 
A couple of years ago, the legislature passed a law that sunsets each tax credit and deduction. This allows a thoughtful review of each of the credits and deductions to insure they are fulfilling the purpose they were created for. That process usually allows the appropriate policy committee in the legislature to review the credit/deduction and then make a recommendation to the revenue committees for a decision.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:36 SenBruceStarr
10:37
The Oregonian: 
We have a followup comment on the first question. Then we'll bring others into the conversation.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:37 The Oregonian
10:37
[Comment From Shoshana EdwardsShoshana Edwards: ] 
Thank you for your answer on the waste in government question. As a follow up, how does that translate to wasteful practices and spending?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:37 Shoshana Edwards
10:41
SenBruceStarr: 
Currently the legislature utilizes the Ways & Means process to insure that state agencies and the programs they administer are accomplishing the goals that they were created to do. That process is a good one but it is limited to a few days of public hearings and to a certain degree does not allow the kind of in-depth analysis that my bill would create. The sunset committee process would create a process on a rotating basis that agencies would have a thorough/year long review. In that process we can find the waste and the areas that perhaps are no longer necessary. It also strengthens the legislative branch. It's done in a number of other states.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:41 SenBruceStarr
10:42
[Comment From Steve Sorenson Steve Sorenson : ] 
If the House and Senate both pass the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) bill, how long before we actually see construction begin? Will the current bridge be used while the new one is built?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:42 Steve Sorenson
10:46
The Oregonian: 
We appreciate your questions, everyone, as well your patience while the senator composes his replies.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:46 The Oregonian
10:47
SenBruceStarr: 
If the funding is approved by Oregon, we still have to wait until Washington approves its share of funding and there has to be an agreement that the Federal Transit Administration is going to provide $850M once all of that happens. Then the State Treasurer must provide an investment grade analysis on the tolling and certify the finance plan. We also have to get a permit from the Coast Guard. Once all of those triggers are hit, then the Treasurer can authorize the expenditure of Oregon's funding and construction could begin next year. We've put a number of protections in the bill to make sure that Oregon taxpayers aren't on the hook without all of these other partners being there. It's a bit complicated and a bit difficult to communicate as I type here.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:47 SenBruceStarr
10:48
The Oregonian: 
A quick followup. What are the latest numbers being discussed with regard to tolling? What will it cost to cross back and forth?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:48 The Oregonian
10:50
SenBruceStarr: 
There's a range that is being considered $2 - $4. The tolls will be set by agreement between the Washington Transportation commission and the Oregon Transportation commission.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:50 SenBruceStarr
10:50
The Oregonian: 
Are those numbers one-way or round trip?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:50 The Oregonian
10:52
SenBruceStarr: 
Each way - also the toll will be collected electronically with at-speed transponders. It's the technology that is used all over the world. We will have have toll booths/plazas associated with this bridge. Traffic will flow at highway speeds.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:52 SenBruceStarr
10:52
SenBruceStarr: 
will not have toll booths
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:52 SenBruceStarr
10:52
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Follow-up on CRC: Does Sen. Starr support congestion pricing for tolling?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:52 Guest
10:52
[Comment From Steve SorensonSteve Sorenson: ] 
Will the old bridge be used during construction and the new bridge aligned differently or will they have to build a temporary bridge so the new one is built where the current one is located?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:52 Steve Sorenson
10:53
The Oregonian: 
After Sen. Starr answers the above questions, we'll move to other subjects.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:53 The Oregonian
10:57
SenBruceStarr: 
The old bridges will be used during the construction of the new bridges. They will keep traffic flowing as this construction project is underway. The new bridge will be located to the west of the existing structures. This bridge is complicated by the fact that there are too airports adjacent to the project, Pearson on the Vancouver side and PDX on the Oregon side. It means that the project can't be too tall; at the same time we've got to have the bridge high enough off the water to accommodate river users too. That's where the Coast Guard approval is so important. Also the reconstruction of the interchanges on both sides of the river are important components of the project too. The interchanges allow access to the Port of Portland and the Port of Vancouver - all of this adds to the cost and the complexity.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:57 SenBruceStarr
10:57
The Oregonian: 
OK, changing topics now...
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:57 The Oregonian
10:57
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Will Senator Starr support restoring driver licenses for illegal immigrants?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 10:57 Guest
11:04
SenBruceStarr: 
Driver's licenses is a hot topic this session. It looks like there is a fair amount of work going on right now with business groups and legislators and the governor's office on the issue. I haven't seen the final bill. I am also aware of the requirement for legal presence in the REAL ID act for driver's license and that was the rationale for the legal presence requirement in current law.

I'm aware of law enforcement's concerns about individuals currently driving w/o a license and the inability to track traffic violations. There are also insurance considerations.

In light of those considerations, I'm hopeful we can craft a bill that honors Oregon and Federal law but also provides the protections law enforcement and our other drivers need. There has to be some significant sideboards in whatever bill is ultimately brought to the senate floor.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:04 SenBruceStarr
11:05
[Comment From Washington County Business OwnerWashington County Business Owner: ] 
Senator Starr - Some people view businesses as a revenue source for the government, and not the blood, sweat, and tears, of our people. Regardless of tax rates, people like Shoshana don't appear to realize that if a business survives or thrives while paying taxes of any level, it is only collecting taxes from its customers, like Shoshana, in the form of higher costs for goods and services. I'm considering moving my company to another state, but I love it here, and want remain a part of this community. What are you doing to try and make Oregon more attractive to businesses, entrepreneurs, and job creators?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:05 Washington County Business Owner
11:10
SenBruceStarr: 
I support changes to our tax code that would make Oregon more friendly to business investment,. We have next to the highest capital gains tax in the country. We can change that. We are working to streamline a number of our land use laws so that businesses can operate with more certainty.

I clearly understand that we need to create an environment where private sector employers can grow, thrive and prosper. I'm working from my position here in the minority to help create that environment. Difficult to type a short answer to that question.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:10 SenBruceStarr
11:11
[Comment From Shoshana EdwardsShoshana Edwards: ] 
so personal attacks are allowed?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:11 Shoshana Edwards
11:11
The Oregonian: 
Yes, a good reminder for commenters to stay focused on the issues.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:11 The Oregonian
11:11
[Comment From WashCoParentWashCoParent: ] 
What do you see as the best strategy to stabilize public school funding? Washington County schools continue to struggle with less money for classrooms each year, leaving our students less prepared for college and high-tech jobs being created close to home.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:11 WashCoParent
11:17
SenBruceStarr: 
In the last several weeks, I've had the opportunity to visit some of our area's schools. I am amazed at how well so many of the teachers in unbelievably crowded classrooms are doing. But they can't continue to do it much longer. In the last decade, the percentage of state funds dedicated to K-12 schools has consistently shrunk. This clearly demonstrates a lack of commitment to schools. I am supporting legislation this year that would dedicate a specific percentage of funds to schools going forward. I will not be supporting a school funding budget this session that allows for continued reductions and large class sizes.

I have also introduced a bill that would delay the requirement for full day kindergarten for an additional two years. While I support the concept, school districts today are not in financial position to meet that mandate.

This conversation also requires a discussion about PERS. I am hopeful that the majority party will act on Governor Kitzhaber's recommendations on PERS and thereby insuring more $$ gets into classrooms.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:17 SenBruceStarr
11:18
The Oregonian: 
Another question about education...
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:18 The Oregonian
11:18
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How do you feel about the "tuition equity" bill currently being discussed in the House?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:18 Guest
11:21
The Oregonian: 
Two quick things while we await a response. First, compliments to all for the variety and quality of the questions. Two, one of our participants notes that Sen. Starr has two town halls scheduled in the coming days.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:21 The Oregonian
11:22
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
North Plains - Feb. 20th at 6:30pm (Jessie Mays Center) Forest Grove - Feb. 23rd at 9:00am (City Hall Auditorium) Hillsboro - Feb. 26th at 6:30 (Civic Center Auditorium)
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:22 Guest
11:23
The Oregonian: 
And here is a quick followup to Sen. Starr's PERS comments...
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:23 The Oregonian
11:23
[Comment From JohnJohn: ] 
But if the Governor's recommendation is not legal, as is very likely with the COLA cap, what do we do? Banking on money that isn't likely to come in only delays the whole issue.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:23 John
11:23
SenBruceStarr: 
There's a lot happening right now regarding the immigration issue - including at the federal level where most of the action needs to occur. My position on tuition equity is informed by those federal conversations. If we have young people who have graduated Oregon high schools and because of the actions occurring in Washington, DC are likely to be given some kind of permanent status, then I support providing in-state tuition for those individuals.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:23 SenBruceStarr
11:23
The Oregonian: 
Changing gears once again...
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:23 The Oregonian
11:23
[Comment From John SpechtJohn Specht: ] 
I am curious about what is called the closing of individual tax breaks. A good example is the senior medical deduction, which is a life saver for many of us trying to pay for our health care, especially with the added costs brought on by the Oregon and Federal Health care laws. This seems like it would be a tax increase on the middle class. Where does this stand?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:23 John Specht
11:25
SenBruceStarr: 
This is a question that will be looked at during the session. Anytime the legislature removes or reduces a tax credit or a deduction, it is a tax increase on the affected class of taxpayers. I'm not supportive of reduction or elimination of the senior medical deduction.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:25 SenBruceStarr
11:26
The Oregonian: 
We're coming up on one hour. We'll try to raise one or two more questions and then wind down.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:26 The Oregonian
11:26
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
What are you doing to support gun owners in Oregon?
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:26 Guest
11:29
SenBruceStarr: 
I am not interested in passing any new laws regulating guns in Oregon. There are thousands of gun owners in Oregon and in my district who follow the law. I trust local school boards to deal with gun issues in school districts. I am committed to working to find ways to help to treat individuals with mental illness issues, which I believe is one of the root causes of the incidents of mass violence we've seen in Oregon and around the country.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:29 SenBruceStarr
11:30
[Comment From JohnJohn: ] 
Still curious about the PERS problems. The "solutions" (COLA cap) appears to be one that will not pass legal muster. As a PERS retiree, I don't feel it is unreasonable. Any hope of discussing it with us, the PERS retirees? I think we are negotiable. All I would ask for in return would be limits on government spending, as in truth it is government spending that gets us here, not PERS itself.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:30 John
11:30
SenBruceStarr: 
Thank you to everyone who has participated in this session.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:30 SenBruceStarr
11:30
[Comment From Sean (Senator Starr staff)Sean (Senator Starr staff): ] 
Feel free to contact our office with any follow up questions we may not have had time to get to - sen.brucestarr@state.or.us / sean.dunn@state.or.us or a call to our office here in Salem at 503.986.1715.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:30 Sean (Senator Starr staff)
11:30
SenBruceStarr: 
John, contact my office and we can talk.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:30 SenBruceStarr
11:32
The Oregonian: 
Thanks to everyone for a rich discussion. We covered a lot of ground in 60 minutes. We invite you to come back next Wednesday for a live chat with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici:. That one will start at 12:15 p.m. Feb. 27.

Cheers, George Rede
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:32 The Oregonian
11:32
[Comment From WashCo CPO staffWashCo CPO staff: ] 
Senator, Washington County CPO 10 wants to thank you for putting their meeting tomorrow on your calendar. A reminder to everyone, Sen. Starr is coming out to Jackson Bottom Wetlands Center tomorrow to speak with CPO 10 on current transportation projects, issues and ideas at their meeting Thursday, 7 p.m. at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Education Center, 2600 SW Hillsboro Hwy.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:32 WashCo CPO staff
11:32
[Comment From Washington County Business OwnerWashington County Business Owner: ] 
Senator - Thank you for your answer about improving the business climate in Oregon. Besides the good things you're working on now, do you think you'll be able to convince any Democrat Senators that the over all climate needs to change? How about tax certainly for all Oregon businessness, and not just Nike and Intel? Each month I talk with someone who's considering moving their business, or is in the process of doing it, precisely because of the previous questioners attitude towards business taxes, and so-called loop holes. It's too bad that Shoshana thought referencing her perspective was a personal attack, my apologies. But it's important to realize that I and many others will not tolerate being treated like tools of the state, especially when I can leave for a state with greater economic freedom.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:32 Washington County Business Owner
11:32
[Comment From JohnJohn: ] 
Thanks for your time and willingness to come into the Lions Den.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:32 John
11:33
The Oregonian: 
Logging off now. Good day, everyone.
Wednesday February 20, 2013 11:33 The Oregonian
 
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