Economic outlook brighter; Summer eclipse brings spring plans; Gas prices stable; PeaceHealth Lab jobs lost; Rock fall blocks rail line

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Economy helps lawmakers with revenue… but not much

Oregon lawmakers applauded Oregon’s economic performance, but warn that budget cuts are still on the horizon.

State economists told legislators in Salem this week that strong economic growth is expected to continue for at least the next two years.  In turn, that will provide an additional $195-million in revenue over the most recent projections.

That’s encouraging, but the occupants of Oregon’s Capitol building had returned to Salem earlier this month prepared to deal with a $2-billion gap between expected revenue and spending.

Now that gap is only $1.8-billion.

On the plus side, economists say the recent growth has been spread across the state, with positive effects filtering down to the segments of the economy that are usually the last to benefit.

And, that growth last year also kicked in just over $100-million more than expected in 2016.

Employment, population and wage growth is expected to continue to strengthen, but lawmakers are also expected to continue grappling with the reconciliation of that revenue with expenditures.

Eclipse will challenge recreation site managers

A huge number of visitors are expected in Oregon this summer to view the solar eclipse.  That means recreation officials who manage some of the best vantage points for that eclipse are in “planning mode” to deal with that surge.

Siuslaw National Forest officials have developed plans for the Mary’s Peak and Mt. Hebo areas.

Both are directly in the path of the August 21st eclipse.

Because of limited parking and expected crowds, they’ve already place parking at the two locations on a reservation only basis.  Access to both spots will be regulated that day, but bicycles will continue to be allowed.

In Corvallis, forest service officials are also talking about working with a tour company or charter operator to provide a shuttle service to the top of Mary’s Peak.

Full details on the plans at both locations are available at the Siuslaw National Forest website.

Rock fall blocks rail line

Crews with the Coos Bay Rail Link are working on clearing a huge rock that has fallen on the line just west of Mapleton.

A person at the Coos Bay Rail Link office in Coos Bay said the entire crew was working to clear the line.  Freight trains travel every evening, Monday through Thursday between Coos County and the Willamette Valley on the line.  It’s not clear if the blockage will be cleared in time to allow this evening’s train to pass.

PeaceHealth lab sale to impact Lane County jobs

181 employees of PeaceHealth Medical Labs will be laid off in Lane County.  That announcement comes following the news that PeaceHealth is selling a portion of its lab business to Quest Diagnostics, a for-profit company based in New Jersey.

In a letter to the Oregon Dislocated Worker Unit, PeaceHealth officials laid out the list of locations where workers will be laid off, and how many at each spot.

The bulk of the layoffs will come at the organization’s Springfield lab where 125 people will lose their jobs.  The other 56 lost jobs are spread over 14 other locations.

Only one job is projected to be lost in Florence and that is a position that has been vacant for several months.  Five other jobs between Roseburg and Bend will also be cut.

According to the federally required filing made last week by PeaceHealth, more than 140 employees in Washington State will also be laid off.  Quest Diagnostics has already announced they will be hiring 275 employees in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

Gas prices steady

Despite lower than usual demand, gas prices showed little movement this past week.  The local average cash price for a gallon of regular gas went up a penny this week to $2.36 a gallon.  The Oregon average price also went up a penny to $2.54.

The average price nationwide, as measured by Triple-A remained at $2.28.

While Oregon’s average price did increase slightly this week, it is still one of 42 states that have seen prices slip in the past month.  At $2.90 a gallon, California’s average price is the highest on the mainland… Hawaii drivers pay an average of $3.12 a gallon.  The average price in Washington State is 20 cents higher than Oregon’s price at $2.74.  The nation’s cheapest markets are South Carolina at $2.04 a gallon; Alabama and Tennessee are at $2.06.