MADRAS, OR -- U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley offered constituents an opportunity to discuss topics ranging from education to sage grouse protection to Medicare funding, during a stop in Madras yesterday.
Sen. Merkley tells KBND one of his worries for rural Central Oregonians is recent cuts to the Senate budget. "The budget that was just adopted by the Senate proceeds to cut early childhood education -- that's Head Start -- and a massive cut to Pell Grants," Merkley says. "That's a 31 percent cut to Pell Grants. College has just been growing in expense so quickly, it's just closing doors for our children. Cutting Pell Grants is the last thing we should be doing."
He also voiced support in efforts to preserve sage grouse habitat. "If we can develop strategies to stabilize the numbers of sage grouse, we can hopefully keep Oregon out of the national listing," Merkley says. He added that he's ready to advocate for more protections, if needed.
Merkley said he is focused on making sure recently passed Crooked River Legislation is implemented "effectively." At the Madras event, several communtiy members shared their support for the legislation approved in December. That bill aims to open up water rights for Prineville data centers and fishermen.
During the town hall, Merkley heard from a man who was denied Medicare coverage for hip therapy, as a substitute for surgery. "He was raising questions of why it isn't approved for Medicare, and I'm certainly going to be looking into that," Merkley said. "We want the most cost-effective strategies. That means better quality of life for our seniors and less impact on the budget. That was a completely new issue."