12-12-2017  9:49 am      •     
MLK Breakfast
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NEWS BRIEFS

Joint Office of Homeless Services Announces Severe Weather Strategy

Those seeking shelter should call 211 or visit 211.org. Neighbors needed to volunteer, donate cold-weather apparel ...

Q&A with Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams

A conversation on diversity and the tech industry ...

City Announces Laura John as Tribal Liason

Laura John brings an extensive background in tribal advocacy and community engagement to the city of Portland ...

Humboldt Sewer Repair Project Update: Dec. 4

Environmental Services continues to repair more than 3 miles of public sewer pipes ...

'Santaland' on Display at Oregon Historical Society

New exhibit features Santa’s throne, Rudolph, and elves from original Meier and Frank’s Santaland ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

OPINION

Payday Lenders Continue Attack on Consumer Protections

Charlene Crowell of the Center for Responsible Lending writes that two bills that favor predatory lenders has received bipartisan...

Hundreds Rallied for Meek Mill, but What About the Rest?

Lynette Monroe, a guest columnist for the NNPA Newswire, talks about Meek Mill, the shady judge that locked him up and mass...

Top 10 Holiday Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

Dr. Jasmine Streeter explains why pampering pets with holiday treats can be dangerous (and pricey) ...

Why We Need More Black Men in Early Childhood Education

Royston Maxwell Lyttle discusses the importance of Black male teachers in early childhood education for the NNPA ESSA Media Campaign ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

Columbia river rail bridge
Jonathan J. Cooper Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon lawmakers peppered state officials and consultants Tuesday with questions about a proposal to replace a bridge over the Columbia River without funding from Washington state.

The project wouldn't necessarily need approval in the Washington Legislature, though it would be helpful, Oregon Assistant Attorney General Ethan Hasenstein told lawmakers on the joint House and Senate committee created to study the proposal.

Oregon would need agreements with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's administration to acquire land and impose sanctions on Washington drivers who skip out on tolls, Hasenstein said. Oregon officials have been working with counterparts in the Washington attorney general's office and the Department of Licensing to draft contracts, agreements and rules necessary to make it work should Oregon lawmakers choose to go forward, he said.

Several legislators were skeptical.

The Washington Legislature last year declined to approve funding for the Columbia River Bridge project, which would have replaced two aging bridges that carry Interstate 5 across the Columbia River and extended Portland's light-rail network into Vancouver, Wash. Project backers in Oregon are pressing the Legislature to move forward anyway.

“Given the benefits that we would receive, and given the reaction by the Washington state Legislature to turn away from the project, don't we have the obligation to be sure we've exhausted all the opportunities?” Oregon Department of Transportation director Matthew Garrett said.

Several lawmakers were skeptical.

“How do you think we would feel and our constituents would feel” if Washington built a project in Oregon after the Legislature declined to support it, Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, asked state transportation officials.

Debt backed by tolling revenue is slated to provide about half of the project's $2.8 billion construction cost, and the rest would come from the federal government and bonds backed by the state of Oregon. WithoutWashington's participation, Oregon would be solely responsible for cost overruns or revenue shortfalls.

Washington residents are projected to make up two-thirds of the bridge's traffic, so the ability to collect tolls from them is essential to the project's financing.

Hasenstein said Oregon can collect delinquent tolls using typical debt-collection tools such as lawsuits, liens and garnishments, but he acknowledged that costs may be too high in many cases. The state can hold up the vehicle registration for Oregonians who refuse to pay but has no authority to do the same to Washingtonresidents. Oregon and Washington are working on a reciprocity agreement that would allow Washington to sanction its drivers for failing to pay Oregon tolls. Oregon already has a similar agreement to collectWashington tolls.

Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, suggested that Oregon bill the state of Washington and leave it to officials there to collect the tolls from Washington residents.

“I'd like to just send one bill,” Nathanson said.

There are multiple ways for the state to sell bonds. It could leave all the risk for toll-revenue shortfalls on bond buyers, or it could secure a lower interest rate by promising to back up any shortfall with tax dollars or highway funds.

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