Oregon media coddles Kitz on special session


by NW Spotlight

Governor Kitzhaber has called a special session of the Oregon legislature for next Monday, September 30, 2013. The governor hopes the special session will address PERS reforms and new “revenue” (taxes), as well as “targeted tax relief for small business owners and working families” — the so-called “grand bargain” that Governor Kitzhaber has been working on for months.

Much of the local media coverage of the special session has sounded like press releases from the governor’s office.

$2 billion increase already: Local media coverage of the special session continues to omit mention of the $2 billion increase that Oregon just got. As noted previously in Oregon Catalyst, “in the legislative session that just ended, the state general & lottery funds’ budget increased by a staggering $2 billion. It went from $14.7 billion for the last biennium to $16.7 billion in the current 2-year budget cycle. That $2 billion increase was accomplished without a tax increase – it just took an improving economic outlook.”

No relationship between PERS reform and tax increases, except a political one: Local media coverage also continues to fail to point out that the only reason tax increases are on the table is to provide political cover to Kitzhaber’s fellow Democrats. As Sen. Doug Whitsett has outlined, the purpose of the “grand bargain” is purely political. It is to raise taxes “to keep the public employee unions from attacking incumbent Democrats,” for supporting PERS reforms. To be able to raise taxes, the governor has to get some Republican support and so there are tax reductions for small and mid-sized businesses in order to “help offset the resistance expected from Republican supporters directed at any Legislator who votes in support of tax increases.”

Failed leadership: Finally, recent local media coverage is saying nothing of Gov. Kitzhaber’s failure to provide leadership during the regular session. Instead, Gov. Kitzhaber chose to travel to Bhutan with his companion Cylvia Hayes to attend a conference on “Gross National Happiness”. As Rep. Sal Esquivel pointed out back in August about meaningful PERS reform: “why wasn’t this done during the five-month legislative session that we just adjourned? For the first time ever in his dual stints as governor, Kitzhaber’s party was completely in charge of both the House and the Senate. He had a golden opportunity to use his bully pulpit to its full extent and fix many of the long-term problems facing the state.”