- Rep. Julie Parrish
In its pursuit of millions to fix and improve Portland roads, the city's been called many names. Now a state legislator is tacking "beggar" onto the list.
Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn/Tualatin, introduced a bill to the legislature this morning that would prohibit the use of the state's general fund or money earmarked for the Oregon Department of Transportation from being spent on local street projects.
It's highly unlikely the bill will go anywhere, but its passage would torpedo the best hopes of Commissioner Steve Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales, who earlier this year paused a controversial effort to tax Portlanders more for roads in favor of asking the state legislature to kick millions our way.
Parrish says that's not acceptable. Her new bill, House Bill 3153, says " Legislative Assembly may not appropriate, allocate or otherwise authorize the expenditure of moneys from the General Fund, or moneys collected or received by the Department of Transportation, for highway maintenance or sidewalk development projects within the boundaries of an incorporated city."
The bill prompted backlash from Rep. Shemia Fagan, the East Portland Democrat who in 2013 fought for, and won, state funding that paid for new sidewalks along a stretch of 136th Avenue where a 5-year-old girl had recenly been run down. Fagan's latest mission is to find state funds to improve safety along Powell.
"So imagine how disappointed I was to see one of my legislative colleagues propose a new law to specifically outlaw my fight for safety investments on Powell Blvd (i.e. state Hwy 26)," Fagan wrote.
That led to a response from Parrish on Facebook, explaining she's not against local road improvements. She just doesn't want state funds paying for them.
"The fact is, the City of PDX needs to get it together on their crumbling infrastructure, and not come asking the legislature for a hand out for something they should be doing on their own."
A spokesman from the Portland Bureau of Transportation, which for years has been asking for a new source of funding to pay for the city's crumbling streets, hadn't seen the bill and couldn't comment. Bikeportland.org first noted the exchange between Fagan and Parrish on its Twitter feed.
Since last year, Hales and Novick have tried to convince Portlanders to approve a new funding source, but struggled to land on an option the public deemed acceptable. That led to an awkward bit of juggling, with new proposals being floated and scrapped in short order. Hales and Novick tabled the whole thing in mid-January, after hearing from Democratic leaders in the legislature that help might be on the way in the form of a state transportation funding package.
That's a very, very bad sign for Parrish's effort. Democrats hold healthy majorities in both the house and senate, and dictate which bills are taken up for consideration.