Oregon Cities

Gov. Tina Kotek won’t veto millions for Oregon cities as she initially threatened

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Earlier this month, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek said she was considering vetoing seven projects approved by the state Legislature this year. Kotek said she wanted proof that $16 million in projects would eventually result in new housing, before agreeing to allow that portion of the legislation to be enacted.

On Wednesday, the governor announced she would not veto those projects after all.

The money for the projects was part of a $376 million housing package approved by lawmakers this session. The housing legislation was a top priority for Kotek.

The governor’s original legislation called for a process where cities could apply to the state to tap money from a specific fund. In an effort to save money, lawmakers slashed through bureaucracy and, instead, gave directly to cities all over the state.

The governor emailed all 44 cities on the list and asked for more information. There were seven projects she considered vetoing. But the governor said she has since received “adequate information” to ensure the projects would all help create or maintain housing.

Related: Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek threatens to veto money for certain cities

Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, who helped spearhead the legislation, said he was pleased to hear those projects wouldn’t be left on the cutting room floor.

“Now that we have funded the first 40 projects that need help, we need to begin the conversation on how we help the next 40 waiting in line,” he said on Wednesday.

One of the initial sticking points of the governor’s overall housing package was the exemption to allow some cities a one-time opportunity to sidestep state land-use laws and bring in more than 100 acres into their urban growth boundaries. In a letter to legislative leaders on Wednesday, the governor said she directed the state Department of Land Conservation and Development to provide technical assistance to cities and tribes to help them navigate the UGB expansion tool.

Kotek also wrote that she hopes to see the Housing Accountability and Production Office, a new office also designed to help cities streamline their building efforts, to receive more long-term funding. Lawmakers only approved one-time funding for the office.

“This will create challenges in the recruitment and retention of top talent to establish the office and support local governments and housing developers to successfully implement Oregon’s housing production laws,” the governor wrote.

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