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Posts published in “Day: March 19, 2009”

“Still at a funding crisis in transportation”

Probably shouldn't have been a big surprise, but the reports indicate that the core transportation strategic planners - mainly out of the office of Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter - really were thrown by the House rejection today of his proposed gas tax increase. Evidently, a number of House members were surprised too.

The debate was fairly closely split between the two sides but the vote wasn't close, at 27-43, with Democrats making some of the strongest anti-tax arguments. (Ponder that a moment: small-l libertarian Otter pushing a tax increase that the Democrats said was unaffordable.) Republican leadership couldn't push it through.

Representative Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, was quoted as saying, “I’ll continue to work with the governor’s office to see if there’s another proposal that would be acceptable, because the problem is not going to go away." It isn't. But keep watch and see if, in the days ahead, there are attempts to re-frame it - maybe as indicating that road spending, apart from what's already being paid for, is something that might be shifted toward the back burner.

AIG in Yamhill County

Presidential advisor David Axelrod did some brilliant work in the presidential campaign, which is why he surprises with this quote: "People are not sitting around their kitchen tables thinking about AIG. They are thinking about their own jobs."

As a matter of fact - and this comes from the farm country of Oregon - people are talking about AIG around their kitchen tables. We bring up the point here because last Sunday, when the news of the mega-bonuses to those would-be masters of the universe first hit, the reaction locally was ferocious. New Senator Jeff Merkley happened to have scheduled a town hall in this mostly rural and Republican area, and he drew a crowd for which Topic A was clearly AIG - and what would be done about those bonuses. The point is symbolic to an extent (the bonuses are only a sliver of the trillions at stake, big-picture) but substantive too in reflecting how taxpayers will be treated as compared to the financiers.

Yes, it is a big subject out here, on the other side of the continent.

As an aside, our suggestion about how to handle this: Turn AIG, already mostly owned by the taxpayers, into a government-run corporation (along the lines of a state government worker compensation fund like those in Oregon and Idaho), and its employees into federal employees. No bonuses, and compensation for top executives capped at the salary level of the president of the United States. Megamoney breeds the attitude that rules are for other people; why should taxpayers underwrite that?