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Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek threatens to veto money for certain cities

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek speaks at a press conference.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek speaks at a press conference in Portland, Jan. 30, 2024, where a a 90-day state of emergency was declared jointly by the state, Multnomah County and the City of Portland, to address the fentanyl crisis in Portland. The action followed a recommendation by the Portland Central City Task Force, and will direct resources in an “unified response.”

When state lawmakers approved sending nearly $100 million directly to 44 cities across the state to update infrastructure, Gov. Tina Kotek made it clear the money had to result in housing within five years.

On Monday, she signaled she’s ready to veto the funding for seven projects unless it’s clear the projects pave the way for new housing.

“The legislative intent of this funding is to support shovel-ready projects that are essential for new housing production,” Kotek said in a statement. “After the legislative session, my office began a review of each of the projects to confirm project scope, cost, timeline, feasibility, and the nexus to housing production and affordability.”

Kotek wants more details about seven specific infrastructure projects totaling $14 million. She’s also seeking more information about a $2 million earmark for the Old Town Community Association to support the Made in Old Town development project.

Lawmakers chose projects all over the state — from Madras to Monmouth to Medford — to directly give money for storm and wastewater projects.

Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, who spearheaded the effort, said he was a “little bit surprised” by the governor’s veto notice.

“These projects are all housing, nothing but housing,” he said Monday. “We are working with the governor’s office to better understand her concerns and respond to them.”

Gomberg said each project was evaluated on: “Who is shovel ready? Who has made local investments of their own? What is the best rate of return?”

Gov. Tina Kotek’s original housing package suggested creating a process where cities could apply to the state to tap money from a specific fund. In an effort to save money, lawmakers slashed through bureaucracy and instead gave directly to cities. That was one part of an overall $376 million housing package approved in the most recent legislative session.

Gomberg argued giving directly will mean more housing is built, faster.

“We suggested direct allocations because these projects are ready to go and need the help now,” he told OPB in an earlier interview. “We didn’t want them held up for 9 months while someone has to go through an application process with a state agency.”

Kotek emailed all 44 cities and asked for more details about their projects.

The governor will make a final decision on whether to veto these projects by April 17.

Here are the projects Kotek is considering vetoing, according to a press release from her office:

  • $3 million to the Oak Lodge Water Services Authority for wastewater treatment facility upgrades
  • $3 million to the City of Siletz for wastewater treatment plant upgrades
  • $3 million to the Tualatin Valley Water District for upgrades to the pump station on SW 189th Avenue in Beaverton
  • $1.5 million to the City of Butte Falls for wastewater treatment plant and lift station upgrades
  • $1.5 million to the City of Shady Cove for development of the city drinking water system
  • $1 million to the City of Creswell for wastewater treatment facility upgrades and connections to a regional treatment facility
  • $1 million to the City of Gold Hill for replacement of a water distribution main line and improvements and upgrades to water treatment facilities

Copyright 2024 Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Lauren Dake