Sen. Wyden town hall

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) discussed a number of topics Sunday in Reedsport, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions's testimony to Congress about former FBI director James Comey, health care reform, dredging money for the Port of Umpqua and global warming. This now marks the senator's 830th town hall.

REEDSPORT — From funding for the Port of Umpqua dredging to health care, the Sen. Ron Wyden town hall covered the gamut July 2.

Roughly 36 Reedsport area residents and others gathered at the Reedsport Community Charter School to hear Wyden speak and take time for questions and answers.

Umpqua Port Commissioner Steve Reese was among those in the audience, stating "thank you for your efforts regarding our dredging funds."

"We were able to acquire five days of dredging," Reese said. "You've been one of our heroes."

However he said he hoped "we can get rid of this annual (federal funding) hand wringing."

Wyden agreed, saying "we've got to get the coast off this roller coaster -- sort of this Perils of Pauline." He added that federal officials were able to obtain funding from the Army Corps of Engineers for needed work.

Health care was perhaps the biggest topic of the day. Earlier, House Republicans had attempted to repeal and replace Obamacare, failing to do so. Then Senate Republicans tried, but moderates and conservatives in the GOP couldn't compromise with some conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas saying the measure didn't go far enough. Others such as moderate, long time Sen. Susan Collins were concerned about Americans who would be hurt from Medicare cuts. In the end, the Senate -- at least for now -- has put the idea of repeal and replace on the backburner until after the July 4 recess.

Wyden said "a big part of what we have to do in the next few weeks" is "we have to show the facts."

"Medicaid picks up the cost for two out of three nursing home beds and people don't even get that," the Democrat said.

As one specific example, Wyden pointed to a 14-year-old teen and his mother who were at a Grand Ronde meeting. The youth was severely disabled and Wyden said they "are really the face of what this is all about."

Responding to another question, Sen. Wyden said the country has essentially two choices. First, citizens could wait to see if President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Mitch McConnell support a single payer health system, but Wyden said people might be waiting into the late hours of the night for that to happen. Or as another option, they could opt for his introduction into the Affordable Care Act of Section 1332, which provides an "innovation waiver." This way state officials can determine whether they'd like to try a single payer system such as here in Oregon or "Oregon could go in with California and Washington to start a west coast system."

Sen. Wyden was asked after the meeting about local infrastructure -- specifically the Schofield Bridge, upon which all traffic crosses Highway 101 each day through Reedsport, and Scottsburg Bridge.

City leaders and others in the community are extremely concerned that if an earthquake or a resulting tsunami were to hit, that would wipe out Schofield.

Secondly, several months ago a commercial driver heavily damaged the Scottsburg Bridge, almost leading to the structure needing to be replaced.

Referring to the Scottsburg structure, Wyden said, "this is a real dangerous situation, Highway 38. Sharp curves." He said he doesn't like to earmark every fund but he wants to use the Oregon Department as the lead agency for funds and wants to make sure the Schofield and Scottsburg bridges are moved up the priority list of those to be replaced.

How to pay for road and bridge work?

Wyden authored the Build America Bonds program in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The bonds "offer a higher tax credit or federal subsidy rate than traditional bonds -- roughly 45 percent of the interest -- which will make it easier to attract investment for infrastructure, job creation and economic development to areas of the country that need it most," according to a press release from the senator's web site.

The Umpqua Post Editor Shelby Case can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 296 or shelby.case@theworldlink.com.

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