Businesses discuss concerns with Walden, Merkley

Businesses discuss concerns with Walden, Merkley

By:  Phil Wright
The East Oregonian

Oregon's lone Republican in the U.S. Congress and the state's newest U.S. Senator joined forces briefly Thursday to respond to concerns from Pendleton-area business leaders.

The Round-Up City Development Corporation put together the low-key meeting Thursday afternoon with Rep. Greg Walden and Sen. Jeff Merkley. Staff for both Congressmen said it worked out as a happy coincidence they were each in town at the same time.

Walden and Merkley met for the first time briefly at Blue Mountain Community College before heading to the meeting at Hodgen Distributing.

About 35 people participated in the session with questions coming primarily from farmers and RV manufacturers. The pair were together for about 30 minutes, before Merkley left for another engagement, while Walden stayed on.

Craig Reeder of the Oregon Wheat Growers League wanted to know about climate change legislation. Merkley said the forthcoming energy bill will have provisions dealing with climate change, and Walden said by Memorial Day there will be a bill on carbon cap and trade.

Jim Croxton, manager of Fleetwood's area operations, asked about bailout money for the RV industry. Croxton said the credit crisis has harmed his businesses ability to fill orders. He said he cut an order for a thousand vehicles to a mere 450 because no one can get the credit needed to floor the RVs on the showroom even though potential buyers are well-qualified.

Croxton said that also meant he laid off workers for seven weeks.

Walden and Merkley said they have pushed requests for funds for Oregon's RV industry, but they didn't say what might come out of that. Walden did say RV buyers have a long record of following through on their purchases. Merkley said it is likely the Senate might address the RV situation in tandem with a bill related to automobile purchases since the auto industry has more clout.

The pair also addressed the bank bail out. Walden said the lack of oversight meant financial institutions spent the money on what they shouldn't have and didn't spend it on what they needed to. He said he was very disappointed the money didn't get used the way he anticipated when he voted for the first half of the relief measure. He also said that was the reason why he didn't vote for the second half.