SALEM, OR -- Dozens of Oregon county officials are pressing the state legislature to close a funding gap, after a report revealed a major shortfall in funds for the upkeep of roads and bridges. Deschutes County Commissioner Alan Unger signed a letter to lawmakers this week, along with 30 other county leaders, pressuring the legislature to pass a transportation package. "I'm hopeful that, maybe not this session because it's running out, but through the summer we'll hopefully gain enough momentum to hold a special session just to deal with this issue."
Unger tells KBND if Republicans continue the deadlock, road maintenance cost for counties will increase. "Let's say the legislature passes an increase in the gas tax, that would mean more money to the county and more money to our cities; the city of Bend would be able to invest more in our road system."
Republicans are seeking concessions from Democrats on clean fuels legislation that passed last month. Unger speculates that if concessions happen, some Republicans could vote for a tax increase. "They all see the need and the concern. There are some legislators that say if you're going to raise taxes in any way, they're going to oppose that. But, if we don't pay today, it costs us more in the future, so we just need to step up." House GOP Speaker Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) has said he won't agree to raise taxes to fund a transportation package.
According to a 2014 state study, counties could face a $505 million per year shortfall in maintenance funding over the next three years.