Oregonians from around the state are reaching out to my office with the most heartbreaking stories of lost jobs and nonexistent unemployment benefits. People who did all the right things, played by the rules, paid into the system, and turned the other cheek every time another back-breaking policy came out of Salem.
There comes a saturation point of negativity for both social media and mainstream media; thankfully, I can turn those things off and walk away for a while. What I can't walk away from, what I will never walk away from, is the daily flow of crushing stories and hurt mounting in my inbox.
Oregon's current and past leadership has failed the people, and legislators are shouldering the burden of a failed executive branch. A special session is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. As I write this, most of my colleagues, including myself, have not seen any of the proposals we will be deliberating or voting on this week. What kind of process is that? Unfortunately, it's pretty familiar. Lately, our legislative process seems to be controlled by a select few members of the Democratic one-party rule inner circle who set the pace and the agenda for the rest of us. That’s not transparent, that’s not leadership, and that’s not what Oregon needs right now. It's not even clear that this special session will do much of anything to address some of our state government’s most pressing failures, such as the problems plaguing the Employment Department.
To be clear, I think we will owe our critical front-line workers and state employees, specifically in the Employment Department, a high debt of gratitude for enduring this fiasco. This isn’t their fault. I place no blame on the people doing their job with the resources and direction given to them by their superiors. Clearly, they were not given the tools and leadership they needed to be successful.
What we have here is a failure of government, utterly devoid of accountability, and unwilling to take responsibility. I wish I could say the struggles at the Employment Department are a one-off failure for our state government, but Oregonians know better. When a clear track record of incompetence is present, it is time for Oregonians to take notice and vote accordingly.
Government at all levels has proven time and time again to be irresponsible with our tax dollars, broken, and impossible for those that need their services to maneuver or access. We see that more today quite possibly than we ever have before. Instead of focusing on the real problems within our government system, priorities have simply been wrong and misaligned, and working families from across our state are paying the price. Today, 98 days out from Executive Order 20-07 effectively putting tens of thousands of Oregonians out of work, 70,000 people are still unable to get their unemployment benefits. That is simply unacceptable.
Last month, when Employment Department staff came before lawmakers to discuss the agency’s backlog of claims, I fought to get answers as to why Oregonians weren’t receiving the benefits they were owed. I am sick and tired of our state government failing to live up to expectations, and I won’t rest until these problems are fixed. I haven’t walked away from Oregonians. I stand with them and will continue to do what I can to support them through this current crisis. I hope that someday, when we finally restore some balance to our state government, Oregonians will finally have access to a government they can count on.
Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, is the representative for Oregon House District 15.
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