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Inside Salem: Legislator’s Letter: An Update from Rep. Jeff Helfrich

Inside Salem: Legislator’s Letter: An Update from Rep. Jeff Helfrich

At the end of September, I received the honor from my colleagues in the House Republican Caucus to serve as their leader. I’ve received notes of congratulations from many of you, but I also expect some people to ask if the role impacts my responsibility to serve our community and, ultimately, you. I want to assure you: I am unwaveringly committed to the district, and the needs of our community come before politics in the legislature. After all, I am only in the legislature because of you.

During this past legislative session, occurring during the first six months of the year, I supported thoughtful policy, regardless of whether it was introduced by a Republican or a Democrat. I supported bills to extend tax credits, increase housing production, dedicate new funds to ensure farmworker housing is safe and up to code, increase class sizes at the police academy to get more officers on the street faster, and expand eligibility criteria for Safe Routes to School grants to help our students safely walk to class.

I will take the same approach as the House Republican Leader by working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance legislation to benefit all Oregonians. In recent weeks, I have met with Democratic and Republican leaders to identify the issues we agree are crucial to the betterment of our state.

Oregonians need affordable housing, less homelessness, improved public safety, and more accountability for drug dealers and users. We may hold different beliefs on the solutions to these problems, but I look forward to exploring all possible options. The “other side” can have good ideas, too.

In particular, I am extremely concerned about the unintended consequences of Measure 110 (2020), which decriminalized the use and possession of hard drugs and encouraged users to seek addiction and rehabilitation support. Since voters passed the measure, the drug crisis has proliferated throughout Oregon. These issues are not just a problem for Portland but the entire state. In May 2017, 1,483 people were arrested on a drug possession charge in Oregon. By May 2022, a mere 176 people were arrested for the same charge. In that time, fentanyl seizures in Oregon and Idaho increased from 27 doses in 2018 to 32 million doses in 2022. That’s a 118 million percent increase!

As a retired law enforcement officer, I have firsthand experience of the evil that drugs do to individuals, families, and communities. If the legislature fails to address the proliferation of drug use driven, in large part, by the rash proposal to eliminate penalties for possession, then it must also accept responsibility for the tragedy. We must have serious conversations about recriminalizing hard drugs in our state.

In my last column, I shared my support for the kicker. The Oregon Constitution stipulates that if state revenues increase by more than two percent during a budget cycle, the state must refund the surplus revenues to taxpayers. When this happens, we say, “The kicker kicked!” This past fiscal year, Oregonians overpaid a whopping $5.61 billion. This means eligible taxpayers will receive a credit when they file their taxes in April 2024. To determine your credit, visit the “What’s My Kicker” calculator at https://revenueonline.dor.oregon.gov/tap?Link=WMK

As always, you can reach me at Rep.JeffHelfrich@oregonlegislature.gov or 503-986-1452.

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