What ever happened to the "virtual state bank"?

By Barbara Dudley of Portland, Oregon. Barbara is the co-chair of the Working Families Party.

Many of you will recall when the legislative session started, Representative Jenson (R/WFP-Pendleton) introduced HB 2972, a bill which would have created a true state bank modeled after the Bank of North Dakota. The concept has been through a torturous route in the legislature since then, but finally took a form (HB 2519) which everyone signed off on, and I mean everyone: from the State Treasurer to family farmers, business organizations and labor unions to the Oregon Bankers Association and the Credit Union Association (who normally cannot get along at all) as well as thousands of individuals across the state.

And it has strong bipartisan support. The bill got out of the Revenue Committee in late May with a unanimous vote and was sent off to Ways and Means.

Everyone expected it to move expeditiously after that but instead it is stuck... victim of partisan game playing at a time when everyone is clamoring for some action on our anemic economy.

This bill creates a Finance and Credit Authority which would coordinate already existing economic development funds, and other funds such as the Oregon Investment Fund and the Oregon Growth Account, in conjunction with community banks and credit unions, to provide much needed credit to Oregon businesses and farms, at no cost to the taxpayer.

This is clearly a win-win proposal which would strengthen our community banking sector, our Main Street businesses and family farms and create much needed jobs for Oregonians.

To quote Treasurer Ted Wheeler in testifying for this legislation:

"We have here an opportunity to do something valuable for our state's entrepreneurs, our existing small businesses, our family farms, and -- yes -- our existing system of community banks and credit unions."

There is still time -- just barely -- for the legislature to pass this bill. Let's hope they are able to put Oregon jobs, businesses and farms ahead of partisan squabbles.

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    If the legislature wants to get serious about job creation, they would be wise to help the State's top job creators - small businesses. This is common sense policy, and it should not ignored. Everyone should be calling their legislators and asking them to vote on this bill before they adjourn this session!

    [Full Disclosure: I am Coalition Director with the Main Street Alliance of Oregon (MSA-Oregon), a statewide grassroots advocacy organization made up of small business owners from throughout Oregon. MSA-Oregon has actively supported and pushed for this concept because we recognize the tremendous benefit it will have on our main street businesses and our communities.]

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    The wonders and evils of the committee chair powers. You have significant bi-partisan support; the bill passes the Senate, and then get's stuck in the House due to a co-chair. So just one legislature has the power to hamstring a very deserving job creating bill.

    By the way that one legislature is not returning phone calls. At least not mine.

    Figure that!

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    I'm following the fate of the Oregon State Bank with real interest; I'd like to see the same development in New York State...in fact, in every state. This seems an excellent way to boost local economies while loosening the grip of corporate government. Every Oregonian--especially his constituents--should make their preference known to the lone obstructionist in their government.

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