Variety of topics on table when Rep. DeFazio visits S.H.

Alex Paul

A bill that would continue payments to Oregon counties due to the impact of the Northern Spotted Owl on the timber harvesting and county income, is hung up in the Senate, Congressman Peter DeFazio told Sweet Home residents Friday during a stop here.

DeFazio (D-Springfield) said the passage of the bill would mean about $10 million per year to Linn County and even more to other counties within his district. He said it would impact Douglas county to the tune of about $36 million per year and Lane county to $37 million.

Speaking to a group composed primarily of senior citizens, DeFazio said he would like to see Medicaire expanded to include a segment for senior prescription medications.

“It would be an option since many retirees already have prescription plans that cover them,” Rep. DeFazio said. “Through the buying power of Medicare, prescription prices could be greatly reduced. You can buy the same prescription drugs in Canada as we do here much cheaper.”

Senior citizens were also concerned with “notch baby” legislation that would equalize Social Security payments for recipients born between 1917 and 1927. DeFazio said there hasn’t been much movement on that issue. One senior citizen said, “They’re just waiting for us to die off.”

With California experiencing the pains that go along with deregulated electricity, DeFazio said the Pacific Northwest must continue to guard the BPA, which has provided the region with relatively cheap power for decades.

“Other states have fouled up, like California, and are now having to buy power on the spot market,” DeFazio said.

DeFazio said the BPA generators were installed with government loans, not free and the Northwest has paid in full.

“There is turmoil in the wholesale (power) market,” DeFazio said. “No one is building new generators. We had a terrific system and then we screwed it up. Deregulation of the electrical industry is a rip off. California has become a third world country in terms of power. They are experiencing brown outs and black outs. Energy deregulation does not work.”

Sweet Home Mayor Tim McQueary asked DeFazio commented that Congress should focus resources more on domestic infrastructure projects than foreign.

“We need to bring that money home,” he said.

DeFazio said there used to be government programs that would provide an 80% match for water and sewer projects in U.S. cities.

“The CIA says we will someday be fighting wars over water,” DeFazio said. “Federal money should follow federal mandates.”

Other issues talked about during the one-hour meeting at the fire hall included: increasing government loan programs for college students, the impact of NAFTA (North American Free Tree Agreement) on the U.S. economy, trade with Cina, air and water quality in the Willamette Valley and dam breaching.