PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Three Oregon State Reps. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie), Rachel Prusak (D-West Linn/Tualatin) and Anna Williams (D-Hood River) speak after announced last month that they would not be seeking re-election.
The Oregon legislature is supposed to be made up of working citizens, and these three women have day jobs. But they say the state’s part-time jobs system is unsustainable.
“We came into public service because we care deeply about our communities and people needed help,” Power said.
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Power works as an environmental lawyer, Prusak is a nurse and Williams is a social worker. These women set out to use their lived experiences to bring about positive change in Oregon politics, but soon reality set in.
“When things are in full swing, it’s two full-time jobs,” Prusak said. “You can only run at 100% energy for so long before you really take Peter out.”
Sometimes they juggled 80-hour work weeks. But they say that’s what it would take to make a difference.
“If you listen to your constituents, chair committees and oversee our state bureaucracies, that’s not a part-time job,” Power said.
Oregon lawmakers earn a base salary of $33,000 per year as a part-time job.
Despite the usual February-only engagement, lawmakers have met most of the year in various special sessions. If Power, Prusak and Williams were to each give up their other jobs, they say it would become a financial trap for their families.
“Then it puts in place a system only for the wealthy – independently the wealthiest, the pensioners. And is this what we want? And that shouldn’t be what we want. They should be those who have the life experiences, lived experiences, professional experiences, to shape the politics of our communities,” Prusak said.
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They say the current model of the State Capitol exploits the great leaders of the working class.
“People who represent the real issues that Oregonians are facing right now can only really stick around for about four years and I think that’s why we haven’t made so much progress,” Williams said.
According to the three representatives, a real policy of transformation cannot occur in such a short time in power.
The women also said two things need to be addressed to make a difference in the Oregon legislature: establishing fair pay for lawmakers in capital and finance reform, and making sure leaders are compensated fairly – all understanding who donates to campaigns, what they get. for their gifts and to find meaningful limits to those gifts.