The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, April 28, 2017, WEEKEND EDITION, Page 7A, Image 7

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Debt: ‘We’re looking at a $1.6 billion deficit’
Continued from Page 1A
money owed to the state.
While the Department of
Revenue has ways to collect
debt, sometimes the agency
lacks enough information to
find people with outstanding
debt, and sometimes the peo-
ple who owe money don’t
have the means to pay.
“We have kind of a stan-
dard set of tools we use,”
Estabrook said. “… And once
you’ve gone through the stan-
dard steps, you can get to a
place where (debtors) don’t
have assets we can pursue, or
we don’t have the information
to pursue that debtor.”
It is tough to say whether
hiring more people at the
department, as a bill before the
Legislature proposes, would
greatly decrease the amount of
Senate Bill 89 is an effort
to centralize collections at the
Department of Revenue, a
move that could cost the state
about $2.4 million in addi-
tional personnel costs. The
bill would require certain state
agencies using private collec-
tion agencies for specific debts
after 90 days to use the collec-
tions services of the Depart-
ment of Revenue instead.
An analysis from the non-
partisan Legislative Reve-
nue Office says the proposed
measure has “indeterminate”
effects on the state’s reve-
nue because it depends on an
unknown: whether the Depart-
ment of Revenue is more effec-
tive at collecting debt than pri-
Legislative relief
vate collectors.
“Data are not available on
the relative efficacy of collec-
tions efforts and the popula-
tion owing debts to various
agencies can vary greatly,” the
analysis states. If the Depart-
ment of Revenue is more
effective at collecting debt
than a private entity, then rev-
enues could increase; but if
they’re not, revenues could
actually decrease.
State Rep. David Gomberg,
D-Central Coast, who has
advocated for improving
state debt collection, said
he believes there are several
things the state can get better
Among them, he thinks
that the state should keep track
of state contractors who have
outstanding debt, a measure
the governor’s executive order
plans to call for. The state
hasn’t tracked contractors who
owe the state money because
of “antiquated computer sys-
tems that can’t talk to each
other,” Gomberg said.
He also has suggested
cross-checking lists of peo-
ple who win lottery awards or
receive other money from the
state in the form of tax refunds
and pensions with lists of peo-
ple who owe the state money.
Gomberg acknowledged
that more robust debt collec-
tion wouldn’t address the cur-
rent $1.6 billion gap between
revenues and expenses in the
upcoming two-year budget.
“Listen, in the short run
we’re looking at a $1.6 bil-
lion deficit,” Gomberg said.
“Improving our debt collec-
tion isn’t going to solve that
problem, but if we can gen-
erate another $100 million
or $200 million a year, that’s
money that can be well spent
on a lot of important programs
right now.”
Collective bargaining
Brown also ordered that,
when in collective bargaining
with labor unions, increases
to employees’ total compensa-
tion in the Legislature’s bud-
get include salary, cost-of-liv-
ing and health care costs. State
agencies must also ensure sal-
aries are competitive, but also
in line with other “comparable
Salary and benefit costs
for public employees repre-
sented by labor unions could
go up $145 million during the
2017-19 cycle when the defi-
cit looms, although lawmak-
ers are proposing scaling that
back to $50 million, according
to a recent Ways and Means
Co-Chair report.
The governor said the
order is similar to what “pri-
vate employers do. These are
things we have done on and
off as a state. We must do them
Brown also directed the
creation of a new task force
that, by Nov. 1, will report
back to the state ways to shave
$5 billion from the public
pension system’s $22 billion
unfunded liability.
The Associated Press con-
tributed to this report. The
Capital Bureau is a collabora-
tion between EO Media Group
and Pamplin Media Group.
Photos by Erick Bengel/The Daily Astorian
LEFT: Stephanie Ramsey, a large animal doctor who has worked for Russel Hunter for five years, trims the points off a sedated goat’s horns. RIGHT: Veterinarian Russel Hunter
breaks out his supplies while making house calls to treat large animals. More photos available online at
Hunter: Caring for large animals is ‘very physical work’
Continued from Page 1A
discussed the possibility that
she might one day take over
the practice when Hunter, now
77, retires. Ramsey, in fact,
lives a short distance away
with her husband and two
Large animal doctors,
Hunter said, are an “endan-
gered species” in the veteri-
nary field. The vast majority
of aspiring vets choose to treat
companion animals like dogs
and cats.
Caring for large ones,
Ramsey said, is “very physi-
cal work. It can be much nicer
to be in a nice, warm, cozy,
small-animal clinic than to be
out in the field, like we are all
the time.”
Plus, there is often more
money in treating traditional
pets — no small consideration
when veterinary programs
tend to be enormously expen-
sive, requiring many aspiring
vets to take on burdensome
debt loads, Ramsey said.
Though he works closely
with the person who could
one day become his succes-
sor, when the subject of retire-
ment came up, Hunter quietly
protested: “I’m going to die on
the road,” he said with a smirk.
The job, he said, is “too
damn enjoyable.”
“It’s exciting, because
there’s always something
new,” he said. “There’s things
to learn. Every case is an
investigation, or a detective
story, you might say” — one
in which the vet is always
working to identify the culprit
— to “figure it out and do the
best you can do.”
‘In the trenches’
Now in his 51st year as a
veterinarian, Hunter gets to
use these detective skills in a
community where his exper-
tise is essential — and where
other large-animal practices
have opened and closed, while
his has survived and thrived.
Something he didn’t realize
until he joined the profession:
Though driven by animal care,
the job is often as much about
caring for the animal’s owner.
“You develop really long term,
close, trusting relationships,”
he said.
In a profession that can be
dirty and dangerous, a veteri-
narian and an animal owner
can experience a lot together,
moments of distress and of
breakthrough — moments
when their happiness is
hitched to the well-being of
the creature in their care.
One time, when he was liv-
ing in Eureka, California, he
was summoned to a beef ranch
in the mountains, where a cow
was ready to calve. As he
reached the higher elevation,
the rain turned to snow. By
the end of the birthing, it had
snowed 6 inches, and Hunter
was hypothermic. “I was in
agony,” he said. “I was totally
soaked. I was so cold.”
The rancher took Hunter
indoors, dried his clothes,
helped him clean up and put
warm food in his stomach
before sending him on his
“When that kind of stuff
happens, it’s kind of special,”
he said. “It’s like you’ve been
in the trenches together.”
Port: Arguments will be laid
out in a hearing with DEQ
Continued from Page 1A
In its appeal, the Port did
not elaborate on the argu-
ments the agency will use
to contest the fines. Knight
said the Port’s arguments will
be laid out in a hearing with
the department.
“My sense is that DEQ
really wants to work with
us,” he said, adding the Port
has improved relations with
the agency. “They’re not
trying to inappropriately pun-
ish us.”
The Port was fined $36,916
last year for failing to conduct
required stormwater monitor-
ing at the Port’s central water-
front and North Tongue Point
facilities during the 2014-15
monitoring year, and for fail-
ing to file required reports in a
timely manner.
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