April 07, 2005

Senators Wyden and Smith Announce Bipartisan Goals for Oregon, Nation

Washington, DC — Extending their shared priorities beyond Oregon's borders, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) today announced their joint legislative plan for the 109th Congress (2005-2006): a "Bipartisan Agenda for Oregon." This year, Wyden joined Smith on the Senate Committee on Finance, which oversees many areas of health care and tax policy the Senators intend to address. The agenda features eight aims on health, trade, technology and tax issues that will fall under the Committee's jurisdiction. With a strong focus on health care, the Senators are seeking to help safeguard families against catastrophic health care costs and also to maintain Oregon's Federal Medicaid funding while finding ways to improve that program. "Health care is the number-one challenge facing not only Oregon families and businesses, but families and businesses across our nation," said Wyden. "Senator Smith and I decided that we would use Oregon's unusual dual representation on the Senate Finance Committee not only for Oregon's benefit, but to try to bring a bipartisan approach to these issues, particularly on catastrophic care costs - one of the nation's most intractable health challenges." "Our nation faces a crisis, and certainly the people of Oregon do," said Smith. "I have always believed that the loss of one's health should not mean the loss of one's home. We are going to pursue an agenda whereby people will have health care in emergencies so their families are not left destitute and their heirs are not bankrupted." Additional goals on the agenda also under the purview of the Finance Committee include: - ensuring equitable reimbursements for Oregon Medicare providers; - creating tax incentives to promote the use of renewable, affordable energy; - eliminating tax penalties that can hamper the use of new technologies for businesses in Oregon and nationwide; - keeping savings accounts for college, professional or vocational training tax-free; - protecting Internet consumers and businesses permanently from unfair and discriminatory taxes; and - ensuring fair timber trade for Oregon producers. The agenda lists further aims, among them closing the digital divide statewide with high-speed Internet access and working to end the epidemics of hunger and methamphetamine use. "So much will be accomplished if we focus on the possible instead of the political," Smith said. "If we do that, the people's business will move forward and our nation will make progress. As long as I am in the Senate and for as long as Senator Wyden is my colleague, we will continue to look for ways to move beyond partisanship and to continue our partnership for Oregon." "From addressing the number one threat to the timber jobs in the state, to fighting chronic challenges like hunger and meth, Senator Smith and I are committed to finding new answers and new opportunities for all of Oregon," said Wyden. "It's our hope that the shared goals of this agenda can set the stage for bipartisan agreement among our colleagues as well, for the good of the entire country."