Wednesday, July 27, 2011

House Announces Interim Committees [UPDATED]

Not much happens on the legislative front in late July, but perhaps someone out there was hotly anticipating the announcement of House Interim Committee assignments? Anyhow, the list is out, and there are relatively few major changes from the regular session. One change is that the Higher Education Subcommittee has been elevated to full committee status. Another change is that Dave Hunt has lost his spot as Co-Chair of the powerful Rules Committee. He was replaced by fellow Democrat Tina Kotek. That swap is no surprise, since House Democrats ousted Hunt as their caucus leader in favor of Kotek on the final day of the 2011 session. While Hunt lost the high-profile Rules position, he was named Co-Chair of the Interim Committee on Transportation and Economic Development.

Like in the regular session, each House committee has a Democrat and a Republican co-chair (and co-vice-chair) and is otherwise populated equally by Democrats and Republicans. Committee assignments are made by Co-Speakers Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan.

UPDATE: This morning (July 28), Senate interim committees were announced. There were no major changes from the regular session. Most interim committees will meet for the first time during the next round of "Legislative Days" on September 21-23. However, the Revenue committees are expected to meet August 26 to hear the next revenue forecast.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Potiowsky Stepping Down As State Economist

State economist Tom Potiowsky, known for his colorful presentations of gloomy economic news, says he's issued his final revenue forecast. Potiowsky tells me he's accepted an offer to chair the Economics Department at Portland State University, and to head up its new Institute for Applied Economic Research. Potiowsky has a long history with PSU, having previously taught there. In fact, Potiowsky tells me he was technically "on leave" from the university during this, his second stint as Oregon's chief economist.

As state economist, Potiowsky was responsible for issuing a quarterly forecast of Oregon revenues--a closely watched report that lawmakers base their budget on. If Potiowsky's predictions were too optimistic, it meant mid-budget cutbacks to state programs. If his predictions were too conservative, it meant the state would have to refund extra tax revenues in the form of a kicker check.

Potiowsky says his last day as state economist will technically come in mid-September, but he's using up accumulated vacation time, meaning his last day on the job will come in early August. That means the next revenue forecast, due August 26, will be issued by someone else. It's up to Governor John Kitzhaber to appoint Potiowsky's replacement.

Here's a sampling of Potiowsky's comments to lawmakers during revenue forecasts over the past few years:

February 20, 2009:  “I have to say that you are rather a courageous group.  Usually people these days are afraid to have me come talk to them.”

February 8, 2010:   “It’s really making the engine run fast, and you’re taking those cables off, and so it doesn’t get as much juice as it did before. But the engine’s still going to run. It’s just going to run a little less RPM’s before it starts to kick back in.”

February 15, 2011:  "I've heard rumors that possibly our office doesn't have very good economic skills. And so I wanted to squelch that rumor to say that indeed, we are economists…so I put up a graph that no one can understand."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Salem Loses Air Service

You may remember that back in April, I blogged that Salem was losing its distinction of being one of a handful of state capitals without commercial airline service. But to the dismay of Salem city leaders, SeaPort Airlines threw in the towel on its flights to Portland and Newport in less time than it takes to pass most legislation here at the capitol. So Salem once again has something in common with its neighboring states of Washington and Nevada: you can't book a flight to its capital city.