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Posts tagged as “Oregon”

OR: Prospects for 10

Jason Atkinson

Jason Atkinson

A recommended read on the Oregonian Jeff Mapes blog, about state Senator Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point; Atkinson is a prime prospect for the field of Oregon gubernatorial candidates in 2010.

Should be noted that when he ran for governor in 2006, he finished third - and not an especially close third - in the Republican primary. But that was then. Neither the two contenders who topped him (Kevin Mannix and Ron Saxton) almost certainly are out of the picture for 2010. The dynamic then favored a Republican nominee who would run as the centrist guy (that was supposed to be Saxton), while Atkinson is solidly conservative. But the internal party dynamic may be different next time, especially after the Saxton loss. Atkinson would start this effort with the revival of his old organization, building from there - a better start than most other Republicans not named Smith or Walden would have.

Besides which, there was this: Atkinson displayed excellent campaign skills in 2006, better maybe than his opponents. He delivered a knack for communicating with a centrist tone while not abandoning his essential take on things. He could be a very strong candidate for 2010.

Stimulating Oregon

Will the national stimulus package - assuming it clears Congress in a form somewhere similar to originally intended - actually do the job? Economists seem torn every which direction about exactly what the nation's sagging economy really needs. Something, yes. But what exactly?

The prompt passage of localized stimulus efforts may give us some answers before long. Today's legislative passage of the Oregon stimulus - small by comparison with the national, but $176 million still ain't tiny - may offer some ideas.

The idea is that it would create 3,000 jobs, all of them private-sector. The projects involved are supposed to be ready to go, and should be underway by April 1. That should provide for an early laboratory.

A lot of what's happening economically is psychological - a downer feeling that keeps money in pockets and slows the economy. The idea is that an infusion of this amount of money and jobs might change the way people think.

Will it work? We may know soon.

Three to two

Among the many newspaper cutbacks and diminishments we've been seeing, here's one: The tri-weekly (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) McMinnville News-Register next month will become a bi-weekly (Wednesday, Saturday). And its page size will shrink somewhat, and the individual copy box price is expected to rise.

This may not be as sweeping as it sounds in impact on the readers. The Wednesday edition will be a beefed-up weekday edition, and the newshole (space for news stories) evidently won't be a lot less from where it has been.

But, this is a family-owned newspaper, owned by one of those families still genuinely dedicated to community service. To see this is to see the raw economy getting very raw.

Sizemore’s impact over?

Bill Sizemore

Bill Sizemore

Think of him what you will, Bill Sizemore has been one of they key figures in Oregon politics for a dozen years and more.

He was behind a major property tax initiative in 1996, ran for governor (quite unsuccessfully) two years later, and has worked on a long string of ballot issues ever since; and he has also had legal problems, including a case still underway in court. Through all of this Sizemore's operations have been funded by two monied businessmen, Loren Parks (now of Nevada) and Dick Wendt (of Jeld-Wen at Klamath Falls). they have made it all possible.

But maybe no longer. Carla Axtman at Blue Oregon is reporting that Parks and Wendy seem to have pulled their support. If that's so, it marks prospective big turning point in Oregon's initiative culture.

Stimuli in the states

So what are the prospects for states - the three in the Northwest, specifically - to get from the current iteration of the federal stimulus package?

The Center for American Progress has put together some general information. It's limited in details, but some of the interactive maps do provide some useful material.

Overall, Oregon seems to make out marginally the best. But results vary . . .

bullet Oregon - total $6.3 billion. Of that, 11.9% goes for balancing the state budget, the rest for specific programs and tax cuts. Tax cuts overall: $2 billion (or $529 per person), $1.8 billion for Make Work Pay tax cuts, $50.7 million for EITC increases, $153 m for child tax credits. Spending for unemployment, homelessness, poverty - $1.3 billion ($330 per capita), $835 million for those who lost jobs, $75 million for housing, $312 million for food stamps, $30 million for miscelleneous poverty efforts.

bullet Washington - total $10.4 billion. Of that, 12.8% for balancing state budget, the rest for specific programs and tax cuts. Tax cuts overall: $3.6 billion (or $550 per person), $3.2 billion for Make Work Pay tax cuts, $85.8 million for EITC increases, $288 m for child tax credits. For unemployment, homelessness, poverty - $1.5 billion ($232 per capita), $935 million for those who lost jobs, $135 million for housing, $398 million for food stamps, $49 million for miscellaneous poverty efforts.

bulletIdaho - total $2.5 billion. Of that, 13.3% for balancing state budget, the rest for specific programs, tax cuts. Tax cuts overall: about $900 million (or $566 per person), $.8 billion for Make Work Pay tax cuts, $23.9 million for EITC increases, $79.4 m for child tax credits. For unemployment, homelessness, poverty - $312 million ($205 per capita), $198 million for those who lost jobs, $34 million for housing, $66 million for food stamps, $14 million for miscelleneous poverty efforts.

A big box bill

Jeff Kropf

New legislation is pouring into the three Northwest statehouse, and quite a few proposals (apart from the financial ones now getting almost all the attention) merit some watching. One interesting measure, based around an effort in Maine, appears headed for action of some kind in Salem: A measure that would give critics of big-box stores a few extra weapons.

You might think anything that could be seen as a business blocker would have a hard time right now, even in Oregon or Washington. But oftimes what helps one business hurts another. Consider the rationale offered by Onward Oregon:

Big box stores can either help or hurt local commerce, but communities should make the final decision. Join with our state's small businesses and pass the Oregon Informed Growth Act to give communities the right to protect their local economies.

The Oregon Informed Growth Act empowers communities to accept or deny a "big box" store based on its impact on the local economy. If you own a small business (or if you know someone who does, please forward this email to them), please sign the petition.

The Oregon Informed Growth Act lets our local governments investigate the impact of big box stores (anything bigger than 1.5 football fields). When the WalMarts of the world apply to move into your town, an independent consultant surveys the economic and environmental impact of the development (at the cost of the developer).

The consultant checks if the big box store hurts local business, jobs, wages or the town's carbon footprint. Then the town can weigh in at a public hearing and local officials make the final decision: will the development help or hurt the community?

Sold as a protect-the-local-economy measure, this might have some real appeal. It appears not to have been formally introduced, yet, in Oregon. But we'll keep watch to see what kind of reaction the petition drive gets.

OR: The mission continues

Ted Kulongoski

Ted Kulongoski

Compare the state of the state addresses by Idaho's Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and Oregon's Governor Ted Kulongoski, and you could hardly imagine they were delivered at nearly the same hour on the same day, each facing similar economic and social pressures. The speeches could hardly be more difference.

Both proposed transportation and some other infrastructure improvements (which, in each case, could tie into federal spending).

You can see references in Otter's speech in the post below. But consider what Kulongoski had to say - it was a short speech and the key sentences jump out:

"What do we have to do to restore prosperity and lay the groundwork for a future where our children are the best educated in America, our environmental leadership is unquestioned in America, and our economy stands ready to take full advantage of the green industrial and energy revolution that is stirring in America. . . . The ground on which – together – we will build a budget for the next biennium has shifted. But the pillars of that budget – children, education, health care, renewable energy, green technology, and transportation – cannot be shaken. . . .

"If we’re going to turn unemployment checks into paychecks, the state must invest in our human infrastructure. My top priority for this upcoming biennium remains education – because only by creating the best trained, best skilled, best educated workforce in America will we be able to create the employment opportunities that are this state’s future. I’ve been saying for months that the way to turn despair into hope, and uncertainty into prosperity, is to build a protective wall around funding for education.

"The time has come to rise to that challenge – and to accept the moral responsibility of making sure that every Oregon child from birth to age 19 has health insurance. Yes – that means finding the political courage to raise revenue. What are we afraid of? These are our children! . . . We’re also going to have to innovate, educate, and invest! That means more research and development into energy efficiency and conservation. Creating a larger science infrastructure that will attract and train scientists and engineers. And making sure Oregon businesses have the opportunity to generate a critical mass of brainpower, financial power, and marketing power. When it comes to fighting climate change, recently I’ve been hearing a chorus of naysayers singing a three-part harmony of – too costly, too burdensome, and too soon. But this chorus is out of tune – and out of touch – with Oregon’s future."

OR: Legislature ahead

statehouse

Are there any state governments not being crunched by economic downturn and diminished revenues? If there are, the Northwest's aren't among them - Oregon, Washington and Idaho have that situation in common. Oregon's legislature does have one advantage over the other two: Longer to work. Not until summer hit hot on the Salem pavement will Oregon's lawmakers call it quits. So they have a little more time to ponder, reflect, and consider. This doesn't always improve the lawmaking, but any sense of imminent panic may dissipate by then.

And the concern is running high. Said Representative Bob Jensen, R-Pendleton: “It’s the worst budget prognosis we’ve had since 1930.”

The challenges may be a little different. For the better part of a couple of decades, the governing responsibility in Salem have been split between the parties, at least to some degree; even last term, Republicans held enough seats in the House to block an array of fiscal proposals if they chose. This year, Democrats have full effective control, and also full effective responsibility for whatever happens. A certain giddiness at the prospect of pushing through all sorts of ideas is understandable, but caution will have to be part of the mix too. The voters who make can take as easily.

Some of what they'll be facing may be easy and even popular. Governor Ted Kulongoski has, for example, a number of proposals which would "green" the state and also encourage green business, and some of these may run through quickly. But legislators will need to step carefully. The shape of economic assistance (what about the resource industries? what about home sales?) will have to be hashed out. Kulongoski's proposal for a state mileage tax has taken a lot of heat and probably will go down in flames; if it doesn't, the political fallout will be fierce.

In common with Washington, Oregon has had a big budget runup in the last couple of years, and that may give some indication of where cuts can be found. But only to a point. There's going to be little appetite for cutting back on children's health care, or on the recent increase in state police, finally beginning to approach numbers that suggest adequacy.

There are no simple answers here. (more…)

Appearances to the contrary

Man, was last a wet year, huh? Storms at the front, storms at the end, unprecedented snowfall in December . . . it just had to be a record-breaker, didn't it?

While we await numbers from the Pacific Northwest overall, take a look at this analysis in the McMinnville News-Register: The measurement area in the North Willamette valley in 2008 turned in one of the driest years on record, one of the very driest in the last half-century:

"In 2008, McMinnville received only 24.7 inches of precipitation. That's nearly 20 inches less than its 50-year average of 44.66 inches. It's just 55 percent of normal. It's also the smallest total since World War II. Precipitation came in below average every single month of 2008, even December, when the area received more than 18 inches of snow."