Monday, November 30, 2009

Legislature Releases Potential Cuts If 66 & 67 Fail

The Oregon Legislature late today released a list of potential budget cuts if voters reject $733 million in tax increases that are on the ballot in January.  The list is similar in tone, if not specific content, to a pair of lists generated by Legislative numbers-crunchers earlier this year when lawmakers were exploring options to patch up holes in the '07-'09 and '09-'11 budgets.  This time legislative leaders asked agencies to come up with 5% to 10% cuts in their current budget; cuts that House Speaker Dave Hunt says would be "needed to balance the budget" if voters turn down Measures 66 and 67.

Like all lists of potential budget cuts, this one should be taken with a grain of salt.  That's not to say cuts won't happen if the tax hikes are rejected at the ballot box--but the actual cuts may bear little resemblance to the current list.  Consider, for example, that the Department of Corrections says they could achieve their 10% reduction by closing six state prisons tomorrow.  Clearly that isn't going to happen, never mind the fact that doing so would mean making budget cuts now in anticipation of a specific result of an election that hasn't even happened yet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bill Bradbury...for Secretary of State?

Update:  Bradbury's campaign filed paperwork updating his status to that of a candidate for governor, effective November 30.  Also, I corrected the paragraph about John Lim to note that his campaign committee actually lists him as a candidate for State Representative, not State Senate.

Bill Bradbury is running for governor.  But if you send him a campaign contribution these days, you're technically giving money to his last campaign, which was his successful bid to be re-elected Secretary of State in 2004.  As of today, Bradbury's campaign committee still lists him as running for his old office.  Oregon law gives candidates 10 days to update that information once they start accepting contributions or spending money in pursuit of a new office.  Bradbury, a Democrat, has long since passed that deadline.

You'd think a former Secretary of State would pay attention to details like that.  So why hasn't Bradbury's information been updated?  Bradbury campaign spokesman Jeremy Wright was unaware of the outdated description of Bradbury's fundraising committee until I brought it to his attention.  Wright told me he thought the proper paperwork had been filed, and wasn't sure why the old information was still showing.

Bradbury isn't the only candidate for governor with an identity crisis.   Republican John Lim's campaign committee lists him as a candidate for State Representative Senate, an office he last ran for in 1996.  In fact, since Lim ran for State House three times after leaving the Senate, it would appear that he's been out of compliance with this admittedly arcane regulation for the better part of a decade .

Don Hamilton, a spokesperson for current Secretary of State Kate Brown, says the law that requires candidates to update their campaign committee information is not one that is actively enforced.  Hamilton says an inquiry would take place only if someone files a complaint. And he says so far, no one's complained.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Sizemore Factor

Now that Bill Sizemore has entered the governor's race, it will be interesting to see how his traditional rivals react.  Sizemore has been a thorn in the side of public employee unions for years.  Those unions have spent millions of dollars to defeat Sizemore-backed initiatives.  In recent years, unions and other opponents of Sizemore's ballot measures have zeroed in on the man himself, using ads to draws voters' attention to the fact that Sizemore helped get the measures on the ballot.  The not-so-subtle message is that anything associated with Bill Sizemore is inherently flawed.  In 2008, voters defeated all five of Sizemore's initiatives.

But how will public employee unions react to Sizemore himself being on the ballot?  They'll likely do very little in the short term.  That's because--ironically--they have their hands full working to pass two ballot measures, 66 and 67, which are going before voters in January.  The effort to reject those two budget-balancing tax increases is the product of a coalition between business and anti-tax groups, with no particular help from Bill Sizemore.

Beyond the January election, the unions are unlikely to get involved in a Republican primary race.  If Sizemore does manage to win the GOP nomination, you can be sure that unions will line up against him...but they'd likely support the Democratic candidate regardless of who Republicans nominate.  And considering the cold shoulder Sizemore is getting from leaders of his own party,  he'll have a challenge on his hands getting to the next round of the 2010 governor's race.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Walden To Sit Out Governor's Race

His name was usually mentioned only in passing when it came to the 2010 Oregon governor's race, but Republican Congressman Greg Walden has made it official:  He's not running for governor.  Walden told The Bulletin in Bend that he's going to stay in D-C (assuming, of course, that he's re-elected to his congressional seat). Walden is the highest-profile Republican in Oregon politics right now, and would probably have become an instant front-runner for the GOP nomination had he entered the race for governor.  For now, the main Republican candidates are former business executive Allen Alley and former state lawmaker John Lim.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shields Drops Out Of Governor's Race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Shields announced today that he's dropping out of the race for the state's top office.  The former software executive and political newcomer faced long odds in his battle for the Democratic nomination against former Governor John Kitzhaber and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury.  Shields never raised much money and appeared to have little chance of doing more than playing a spoiler.  But his candidacy was given a certain degree of legitimacy last month when the Democratic Party of Oregon allowed him to speak at a weekend retreat of Democratic activists in Sunriver. 

Shields explained his decision in a letter on his website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bailey Versus Bailey

I needed to speak with Representative Jules Bailey for a feature I'm working on about Mandarin language education in Oregon.  I knew he was at the capitol for a meeting of House Interim Committee on Environment and Water, but his assistant told me the Portland Democrat was hitting the road immediately afterwards and wouldn't have time for an interview.  If I kept it brief, however, Bailey would step away from the meeting for a few minutes to speak with me.

But when I arrived at the hearing room, Bailey's assistant flagged me down and told me I'd have to wait.  The reason?  Bailey wanted a chance to grill the person currently testifying before the committee.  That person was Bailey's father, Bob Bailey.  The senior Bailey is the manager of Oregon's Coastal Management Program.  After listening to his father's testimony, Representative Bailey asked a fairly complicated question about the potential impact of oil and gas drilling on coastal ecosystems.  Bob Bailey, perhaps hinting that things were not always this way in the Bailey household, responded to his son:  "You actually were listening, weren't you?"

(For the record, following the father-son showdown, Representative Bailey did have time to speak with me.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Second Husband-Wife Candidate Tag Team Emerges

At least two Oregon households will spend next year in full-blown campaign mode.  Now that former Oregon lawmaker Lee Beyer has decided to run for a seat in the Oregon Senate, he and his wife Terry Beyer join Chuck and Katie Riley as husband-and-wife candidate tag teams. 

Chuck Riley is a current House member who is trying to win a Washington County Senate seat currently held by Bruce Starr.  Chuck's wife, Katie, is so far unopposed in her attempt to win the seat being vacated by her husband. 

In the Springfield area, Terry Riley is running for a fifth term in the Oregon House.  Her husband, Lee Beyer, announced today that he's giving up his position as chair of the Public Utility Commission in order to win a seat in the Oregon Senate.  Lee Beyer served in the Senate--and before that, the Oregon House--before being appointed to the PUC in 2001.  The seat that Lee Beyer is now seeking is being vacated by Bill Morrisette, who is running for a spot on the Lane County Commission.

Both of the Rileys and both of the Beyers are Democrats. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tax Amnesty: $10 Million So Far

Oregon's first-ever tax amnesty program is starting to pay off.  As of Monday the state had received just over $10 million dollars in back taxes.  That's a hefty chunk of change--but with less than two weeks to go in the seven week amnesty period, it's unclear whether the state will reach its goal of bringing in $17 million dollars.

However, there are two reasons why the goal may still be met:  First, human nature being what it is, a disproportionate number of people could be waiting until the last minute to file an amnesty application. There's no way to know for sure, but some other states have reported a rush of applications near the end of an amnesty period.

The second reason why the goal may still be within reach is that some people with a large tax debt have been able to arrange payment plans.  That means that while the cash isn't in the state's coffers yet, there's a reasonable chance to think it will be in the near future.

Fessing up now means the state will waive any penalties and half of the interest that's accrued.  But if you could have filed for amnesty but didn't, the state will increase your penalties by 25 percent.  For what it's worth, as of yesterday the state had received 1400 amnesty applications and has approved 95 percent of the requests.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lottery Extends Winning Period For An Unlucky Few

Showing up at the DMV on a state furlough day might be frustrating...but imagine if the office you found closed was the headquarters of the Oregon State Lottery.  Worse yet, imagine if that day was the last day to claim a prize before your winnings expired.  Right now, you'd be out of luck.  Current rules allow an extension only if the final day to claim a prize--usually a year after you win--falls on a weekend or holiday.

That means if you show up at Lottery offices in Salem on a state furlough day, no one will be there, and by the time the office opens again the following Monday (all scheduled furlough days are on Friday), your ticket will be out of date.  Lottery officials are in the process of changing the rules to give people a grace period in the event this happens.  Admittedly, this would only affect a tiny, tiny number of people since most big winners probably don't wait until the last minute to claim a prize, and those who do have a statistically small percentage of hitting a furlough day, as there are only nine remaining such days between now and June of 2011.  But nevertheless, the tardy winners will be glad to know that the rule-makers over at the State Lottery are looking out for them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Wild Sidewalks Of Polk County

You've probably seen the wiseguy bumper sticker that reads:  "If you don't like my driving, stay off the sidewalk!". Eighty-one year old Robert Butson should have kept that in mind when he took a stroll down a sidewalk in Dallas two years ago.  He was struck by a car that was exiting a business, and a Polk County jury recently decided that Butson was partially to blame.  Butson says he'll tell his story to "whatever lawmakers in Salem will listen to him."   Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Morse Vetoes Bid For Governor

Another Republican has decided not to run for governor.  Frank Morse told the Gazette Times that he'll seek re-election to his Albany-area seat in the Oregon Senate.  Morse had said earlier that he was contemplating a run.

Where does that leave the GOP when it comes to next year's marquee political battle in Oregon?  Businessman Allen Alley is actively campaigning.  Former state lawmaker John Lim says he's running but so far hasn't raised any money and has kept a very low profile since announcing his candidacy in early September.  Current state Senator Jason Atkinson said recently he was "suspending" his campaign due to unspecified family health reasons.  Former Portland Trailblazers basketball player Chris Dudley, who--according to Wikipedia--is known for "his limited offensive game and poor free throw shooting," has formed a fundraising committee but hasn't officially entered the race.

On the Democratic side, former Governor John Kitzhaber and former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury are duking it out, along with former computer exec Steve Shields.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Showdown at Salem City Club

This Friday, the Salem City Club is hosting what could potentially be a heated debate over Ballot Measures 66 and 67, the pair of Legislatively-approved tax measures headed for the January ballot.  Representing the group that wants to overturn the measures is Pat McCormick, a veteran of more than 20 ballot measure campaigns.  In the other corner will be Steve Novick, representing ballot measure supporters Defend Oregon.  McCormick and Novick are each accomplished communicators, and each will come armed with a dizzying array of statistics and anecdotes to buttress their arguments.