Chip Terhune, chief of staff for Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, visited with members of the OAN Government Relations Committee yesterday. Association officials deemed it significant that the governor’s top aide would come to listen to the views and concerns of green industry leaders. “It speaks to the strength and credibility of our organization,” OAN Director of Publications and Communications Elizabeth Peters said.
A wide-ranging discussion was held on areas where the nursery industry and the state could work together, such as greater trade missions to growing Asian markets, and a forthcoming transportation package that may call for nursery products to be used as environmental offsets per lane mile. “I think you’ll find a very receptive Legislature with that argument,” Terhune told the group.
Members also brought up areas of concern, which included minimum wage indexing, card check legislation, and a possible reduction of resources for the fight against invasive species. Under Kulongoski’s proposed budget, the state invasive species coordinator would no longer receive general fund revenue, although other funding sources could be tapped.
Chris Guntermann, who represents nurseries on the Oregon Invasive Species Council, said such programs have been successful in educating the general public and government agencies, and should continue. “It would be a shame at this point to lose the momentum,” he said. Guntermann said there are foreign invasive species that, if established here, could cause interstate markets to restrict or eliminate shipments from Oregon.
Terhune told the group that state expenses are going up, especially for human services, and people have told him wrenching personal stories.
“They were middle class two months ago,” he said. “They had a house. They had a job – sometimes both had jobs. They have kids in school. They were members of the PTA. And they have lost everything.” However, in spite of these mounting expenses, the governor is trying to strengthen education and transportation so that Oregon can remain competitive, Terhune added.