Friday, August 26, 2011

Revenue Forecast: First Look

Oregon economists are predicting a slight drop in state tax revenues. Interim State economist Mark McMullen said this morning that despite recent turmoil on Wall Street, he's projecting state income tax collections to drop just $200 million over the coming biennium. That is, tax revenue is expected to be $200 million less than it was expected to be at the close of the legislative session in June. That's a relatively small drop, and so far it's well within the "cushion" that lawmakers gave themselves when crafting the current two-year spending plan. "Things aren't unraveling yet" in Oregon, says McMullen. "So for now, we're holding the line. But if the nationwide economy goes back into recession, it will drag Oregon down with it."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Starr Named To NCSL Post

Republican state senator Bruce Starr is on track to become the president of a national legislative organization. Starr, who recently ruled out a run for Congress, was elected vice president of the National Conference of State Legislators. The NCSL is a non-partisan bipartisan organization with a wealth of knowledge and statistics, and is turned to frequently by legislators and their staff (and--in the interest of full disclosure, journalists too) for information and background about policy issues. Starr assumed the post at the organization's recent conference in Texas. The third-term senator from Hillsboro will ascend to the presidency of NCSL in two years.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Oregon Gets Another Shot At HUD Contract

Last month I reported on the curious tale of a Seattle suburb beating out the state of Oregon for a $4.2 million HUD contract to oversee Section 8 apartment complexes. Oregon's Department of Housing and Community Services protested the award, which went to the housing authority in Bremerton, Washington. Oregon DHCS found out it lost the bid in early July, just days after the legislature put the finishing touches on its 2011-13 spending plan. The agency's budget had immediately sprung a $4.2 million hole, and was gearing up to lay off 14 employees.

It turns out, lots of other states and agencies on the losing ends of bids protested too. And today, HUD announced it will re-open the bid process in Oregon and 41 other states. Oregon DHCS spokeswoman Lisa Joyce says the agency is pleased that it will have another chance to win the bid. She says it "provides confirmation of what we've said all along, which is that the bid process was flawed."

Bremerton Housing chief Kurt Wiest was not immediately available for comment. But the upheaval could have a silver lining for his agency, too. In the recent round of bidding, Bremerton lost--to the state of Wisconsin--its contract to oversee Section 8 apartment complexes in the state of Washington.

Here's the statement from HUD:

"All along, it has been HUD's intent to structure these agreements to improve service and to seek significant cost savings on behalf of the American taxpayer. Facing a large number of protests from unsuccessful applicants that could have dragged on for months, HUD recognizes the overriding need to ensure lower income tenants do not experience any interruption in service and to guarantee timely payments to building owners. It is in the best interest of the Department, and more importantly the families living in HUD-assisted housing, that we solicit new proposals in selected states."

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Hatfield Reaction

Here's some more reaction to the death of former Oregon U-S Senator and Governor Mark Hatfield, who passed away Sunday at the age of 89:

U-S Senator Ron Wyden: 

Senator Hatfield was a colleague and friend to many who still serve in the United States Senate and he was a hero to a generation of Oregonians who came to admire him for his independence and principles. We will remember him as someone who was universally respected and whose word was his bond.

Senator Hatfield was never one to be driven by party affiliation or ideological litmus tests. He was religious but not intolerant. Idealistic but not naïve. A politician but not partisan. He was willing to stand alone, but never one to grandstand.

I know that all Oregonians join me in offering condolences to his wife, Antoinette, and his four children, Elizabeth, Mark Jr., Theresa and Visko.”

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney:

“Senator Hatfield’s legacy represents governing the way it ought to be – with a focus on solutions rather than sound bites. Even as he was making history as a legislator, our governor and U.S Senator, he recognized the importance of Oregon’s heritage. He knew that without our history, we would have no soul, no spirit. Today, Senator Hatfield is our history. He was and always will be the soul and spirit of Oregon and her people.”

Oregon Right To Life:

"Oregon Right to Life sends respects to the family of Senator Mark Hatfield;at his passing. Senator Mark Hatfield will be remembered as an early pro-life warrior as he stood boldly in defense of unborn children threatened by abortion. During his tenure, Senator Hatfield supported efforts to pass a Human Life amendment, the Hyde Amendment which keeps federal tax dollars from funding abortions, the ban on Partial-Birth abortions and opposed the so-called Freedom of Choice Act. We are grateful for his leadership, service and example that will live on through his legacy of education and role as advisor to our state’s and nation’s leaders.We join our prayers with many across Oregon and the nation for Senator Hatfield’s family."

Via Twitter:

Bus Project: "RIP, Sen Hatfield. A constant champion for civil rights & the public interest. We need more Mark Hatfields. Thanks for being the first."

Former Oregon State Representative Jeff Kropf: "I admired and liked Hatfield, but he must share blame for our debt mess with deciding 'no' vote on BBA, perhaps denying Dole Presidntl [sic] win"

Also, Hatfield's alma mater has put together an online tribute to Senator Hatfield. 

Kitzhaber Orders Flags At Half-Staff

The US flag flies at half-staff outside the Oregon capitol building this morning.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has ordered flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff to honor Mark Hatfield, who passed away Sunday at the age of 89. Kitzhaber says the tribute will continue until the late Senator and Governor is buried. As of this morning, no date has been set for that.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reactions To Hatfield's Death

Reactions to Hatfield's death are flowing in. Here's a sampling:

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber:

"No one has had a more profound impact on Oregon in the last half century than Mark Hatfield. We've lost a true statesman whose legacy lives on in his countless contributions to Oregon's quality of life. Senator Hatfield's moral compass, independence and willingness to reach across the aisle are an inspiration to me and countless Oregonians."

Oregon GOP chair Allen Alley:

“The entire state is saddened to hear of the passing of Mark O. Hatfield, a quintessential Oregonian and a true national statesman. In his exemplary career as Republican U.S. Senator, Governor, Secretary of State and State Representative, he will be remembered for his courage and conscience in a life of public service for the people of Oregon and the country. In five decades of service, Mark Hatfield rose to be the ‘greatest generation’s’ greatest Oregon leader. He set a high standard for personal conduct, leadership and ability to work across party lines to solve problems and find balanced solutions. The Oregon Republican Party and all Oregonians mourn the loss of this Oregon statesman. We offer our condolences to Antoinette and members of the Hatfield family.”

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley:

“I am deeply saddened to hear about Senator Hatfield’s death. Senator Hatfield took courageous positions of conscience -- from opposing the Vietnam War to advocating for the abolition of the death penalty – in the face of substantial political opposition. He inspired many to public service, encouraging them to work to do what is right rather than what is convenient or popular. Senator Hatfield played an enormous role in making Oregon what it is today. His hands were at work in the development of so many institutions we treasure as Oregonians, from the Oregon Health and Sciences University, to the Mark Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, to the Opal Creek Wilderness, to name just a few. He should also be remembered, in this age of bitter partisanship, for his bipartisan and gracious diplomacy. I have greatly admired Senator Hatfield since I had the chance to be one of the hundreds of interns he hosted over his decades of public service. Tonight, a great man has passed from among us and we will miss him greatly. Mary and I will be holding his wife and partner Antoinette and his family in our prayers."

OHSU President Joe Robertson:

"Sen. Hatfield was a man of conviction and vision who left his mark on many of us here at Oregon Health & Science University. He led the charge to fund medical research and helped transform OHSU into a leading health and science university. The School of Nursing, the Vollum Institute for Biomedical Research, the Hatfield Research Center and the skybridge that links OHSU with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center are all examples of investments he championed that have brought healing, teaching, discovery and outreach together at OHSU. We will miss his wisdom and courage."

State lawmakers have been weighing in on Twitter this evening:

Rep. Jefferson Smith: "From one of many Oregonians, thank you Mark O Hatfield."

Rep. Shawn Lindsey: "Amanda and I extend our condolences to the family of Sen. Mark Hatfield. He led by example, something that we should all try to emulate."

Rep. Jules Bailey: "Today we lost one of the greatest Oregonians. Mark Hatfield defined what it means to be a statesman. His legacy will shape Oregon forever."

Rep. Julie Parrish: "Our sincerest condolences to the Hatfield family on the loss of a great Oregonian....His brand of statemanship could use a comeback in our country!"

Treasurer Ted Wheeler: "Mark Hatfield, a giant in Oregon politics and old family friend, passed tonight. God bless."

Mark Hatfield Obituary

Here's a link to the public radio obituary of Mark Hatfield.