By Representative Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone). Rep. Hunt represents northern Clackamas County and serves as Assistant Democratic Leader.
House Majority Leader Wayne Scott has been claiming an increase in Oregon State Troopers, but the facts outweigh the rhetoric: House Republicans cut troopers in 2005.
'The 2005 Legislature reduced the number by 20 troopers' according to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Office. 'As a result of sworn staff reductions, almost all of the state is without 24-hour coverage, patrol areas have been expanded, many duties have been eliminated, response time has increased, and officer safety has been compromised.' Read it yourself.
When these state trooper cuts were proposed in House Bill 5167, I and other Democratic legislators stood up on the House floor to strongly object and vote "no" on these cuts. Strangely, Rep. Scott defended these state trooper cuts and voted 'yes' along with a narrow majority of the House.
What do these cuts mean in real numbers? In the 1979-81 biennium, there were 665 sworn full-time patrol troopers in Oregon. After last year's cuts, there were only 309 remaining -- a cut of more than half of our state troopers! Meanwhile, Oregon's population is up by over one million people (a 40 percent increase), highway traffic is up, and meth trafficking is up.
In light of our improving economy and increasing revenue, it's amazing that the House Republican leadership pushed through budgets in 2005 that increased school class sizes, reduced Head Start slots, eliminated health care for needy Oregonians, refused to create a rainy day fund, cut funding for Oregon's District Attorneys, AND cut the number of state troopers.
It's even more amazing that Rep. Scott and the House Republican leadership are willing to spend money on auditing OSP and on studying the potential transfer of patrol responsibilities to county sheriffs -- which is opposed by both OSP and the Sheriffs -- but they are unwilling to spend money on actually putting more state troopers on the road.
Ensuring an adequately funded OSP is one of the most important things we can do to guarantee the safety of our citizens, the economic prosperity of our state, and success combating the meth epidemic. To achieve that goal, it's time for new leadership in the Oregon House of Representatives.