By Matthew Daly
The Associated Press
Oregon's congressional delegation joined with Gov. Ted Kulongoski
last week to urge the Bush administration to locate one of
10 national nanotechnology research centers in Corvallis.
The move follows passage of a bill last year boosting research
and development of nanotechnology, which uses matter as small
as atoms to create new materials, drugs and machines.
Kulongoski and the congressional delegation also agreed to
press for more transportation spending and improved conditions
for Oregon National Guard troops serving in Iraq.
The annual meeting between the governor and the delegation,
which followed Kulongoski's attendance at the National Governors
Association meeting, touched on issues ranging from health
care to forests to higher education.
But the overwhelming emphasis, in a state where the unemployment
rate continues to be among the highest in the nation, was
on jobs. Lawmakers believe both nanotechnology and transportation
have potential to create thousands of new jobs for the state.
"Nothing produces more good-paying jobs more quickly
than does the transportation bill," said Sen. Ron Wyden,
D-Ore., who hosted the morning get-together.
Wyden sponsored the nanotechnology law, which is expected
to boost federal spending on such research by nearly $3.7
billion over the next four years. The law calls for creation
of 10 nanotechnology research centers across the country.
The Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute in
Corvallis, run jointly by Oregon State University and other
schools, is home to some of the nation's top experts in the
field and is a logical place for a research center, Oregon
officials said in a letter to Bush.
"Oregon has a highly skilled work force with the expertise
and strong collaboration necessary to make big leaps in the
science of the small," they wrote. "At a time when
Oregon continues to suffer serious unemployment, the location
of a nanotechnology research center in Oregon would be a big
boost for our economy."
Job creation was also the key factor as lawmakers backed
a big increase in transportation spending.
The Senate has approved a $318 billion, six-year surface
transportation bill that would boost highway spending in Oregon
by at least $93 million a year. White House officials have
called the bill extravagant and said President Bush is likely
to veto any bill that goes beyond $256 billion or uses tax
increases or deficit spending to finance it.
Wyden and other Oregon lawmakers called the threat unfortunate,
citing federal estimates that every $1 billion invested in
transportation creates at least 47,000 jobs.
"The most direct way the federal government could put
people back to work in Oregon and other states would be with
a prompt and robust investment in transportation infrastructure
projects," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. "We've
got a lot of project ready to go. We just need the money."
DeFazio challenged the Republican-led House to pass a transportation
bill with at least as much spending as the Senate. He and
other Democrats called the veto threat empty, saying it was
unlikely Bush would block a popular job-creating bill in an
"If the president is truly interested in putting Americans
back to work, he'll support the Senate version" of the
transportation bill, said Kulongoski, a Democrat. "This
is a great jobs bill a great public relations bill
Kulongoski, who took office last year, said he was encouraged
at the meeting's bipartisan spirit and cooperation
a sentiment that lawmakers shared.
"I'd say it was the most substantive and free-flowing
discussion we've had with any governor since I've been in
Congress," said DeFazio, the state's senior House member
and a 17-year congressional veteran.