There are alot of reasons why I like Jeff Merkley and believe that he would make an outstanding Senator for Oregon. He has a strong record of respecting and caring for our veterans, as well as a specific outline for continuing to do so at the national level. Merkley understands the damage being done by "fair trade agreements" that are anything but fair. He has a very specific outline for ending the occupation in Iraq and for stabilizing that region. In addition, Merkley knows that health care is a neccessity that should be enjoyed by every citizen, not just the have's and that in order to truly secure our nation and our future, we need to take bold action around energy independence and renewable energy.
All of these reasons are excellent and strong enough for me to support Mr. Merkley, in their own right. However, there is one issue that sets him apart for me. It is the issue that brought him to my attention to begin with, during the 2007 Oregon Legislative session. That issue is education, in particular, post-secondary education. This is the statement that Merkley released during the session regarding this issue, and his stance on it, particularly the connection between investing in education and the corporate minimum income-tax (which has GOT to be increased people...sheesh!):
“Securing significant additional investment in our universities and colleges will be our top budget priority during these final weeks in the legislative session. The good news from the May economic forecast is that we can match the investment requested in the Governor’s budget for the operation of our colleges and universities. But we must not stop there. We can and must undertake additional steps as well, including:
** Implementing the ‘shared responsibility’ model for student scholarship assistance to make higher education much more affordable for our students.
** Greatly enhancing our investment in the construction and repair of our college and university buildings.
** Utilizing the anticipated revenue to make a significant improvement in the
operations budget for our colleges and universities beyond the Governor’s budget.
“Investing in our universities and community colleges is the single most important economicdevelopment strategy we can pursue. We can create a healthy business environment and attract good jobs and investment to Oregon, but we need a long-term strategy to do it.
“As part of that long-term strategy, this is the moment to adopt an increase in the absurdly low
$10 corporate minimum tax and dedicate it to higher education. The resulting revenue will
strengthen higher education today, but more importantly, it will build the foundation for a worldclass university system in the years ahead.”
My primary focus in my position in student government last year was to represent my school's students, and all of Oregon's college students, in the legislative process. In speaking to representatives in Salem, I tried to focus, not just on the difficulties that students face in obtaining their educations, but why it was important for our state to invest in those students and institutions of higher learning. It isn't just about getting a college education simply to get one. It isn't about helping students get a degree simply for their own benefit. It is about the direct impact that an educated citizenry has on the social and economic health of our state. It is about the direct connection between a trained, educated workforce and attracting strong economic growth to Oregon. It is about having trained and skilled professionals to replace all of those nurses and emergency personnel who are getting ready to retire. We can talk until we are blue in the face about emergency preparedness and domestic security, but if we don't have the qualified personnel to ensure that we have those things, than what is the point? Why expend any effort at all in bringing economic growth to our state and improving/expanding our transportation system if we don't have enough skilled and educated personnel to work at the businesses that this is supposed to attract? Education is THE base for a healthy, financially sound, democratic society. Merkley gets this. He understands that connection. That is the primary reason that, when Jeff Merkley announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, I didn't even have to think twice or question it. I knew, and I still know, that Merkley is the best candidate to represent Oregon in D.C.