SUNRIVER, OR -- State Representative Gene Whisnant steps down from office this month, after 14 years serving district 53. "My most important achievement, I think, in my career was passing a bill called the Taxpayers Transparency website," he tells KBND News, "You can go online and see how much money comes into the state and how we spend it." Whisnant's Oregon Taxpayer Transparency bill passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature.
He admits there are issues he wishes he could've resolved before retiring. "There's a lot of issues that I've worked on and tried to improve them, but they're still out there; concerns like the Oregon PK-12 system, our unfunded PERS debt liabilities, increased cost of state government, and the management of our forest land, homeless and affordable housing, medical care, especially mental health. We need reform. It's not just money."
According to Whisnant, education needs the most work. "What we're doing is not working. We're putting more and more money, but the cost drivers- if we don't address the cost drivers, we can't do it. It's not practical." Whisnant thinks combining overhead and administration costs, and decreasing the number of school districts would create avenues to spend education money more wisely. He'd also like to provide practical courses for students, "Civics and financial literacy I think need to be put back in the high school graduation. It might prevent another housing crisis or some other debt like that." For him, education successes include creating a way for students to rent their textbooks instead of buying them, reforming the English as a Second Language programs, and tuition assistance for Oregon National Guard personnel."
The Sunriver Republican admits serving in the state House when his party is in the super minority could be frustrating, but he says it was an opportunity to build relationships, "I worked hard, I think I built up a really good relationship with both Republicans and Democrats. You have to; and I'm really proud of the successes I had."
Whisnant's last day in office is January 14, when Republican Jack Zika takes over his District 53 seat in Oregon's House.