Children across Oregon are preparing their lists for Santa ahead of the holiday next week. Legislators and the governor, in preparation for the February session and election year ,are developing their own wish lists — none of which are likely to stop with “my two front teeth.”
Here are a few items that may find their way onto policymaker wish lists this holiday season:
Money for the General Fund
A perennial wish for almost all policymakers is additional money to spend in the upcoming session. Each member has his/her policy priority and nearly every one comes with an additional resource request. Despite increased revenues from the special session, legislators will arrive in February to find few uncommitted dollars available for their shiny priorities. Legislators and the governor will be awaiting the revenue forecast with the same anticipation of children on Christmas Eve.
Successful February Session
Over the last three years Oregon has produced three successful regular sessions and two special sessions, without significant drama or partisan breakdown. They’ve finished on time, with substantive policy achievements and a balanced budget. These feats don’t happen by accident, or through rote habit; they are the direct result of strong leadership and bipartisan cooperation. A successful session sets everyone up for a good election cycle — and pulling the rabbit out the hat another time is near the top of everyone’s list.
A Functioning Cover Oregon Website
Oregon has made big bets on health care reform and become a national focus for what’s possible on transforming health care delivery. Yet, we’ve also become the national poster child for Obamacare websites gone terribly wrong. Nearly three months after the site was set to go live, The Oregonian has reported that as many as 40 critical programming defects remain unresolved. No matter how legislators voted on the approval of the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange, all will be tagged with the failure of this website. Constituents unable to navigate the convoluted process, plagued with delays and uncertainty, won’t distinguish votes or political parties when it comes to the blame game. A fully functioning website is a top wish for Kitzhaber and his team, but an important gift to all policymakers in Oregon.
A Landslide Election
Someone, and perhaps everyone, will be disappointed with the outcome of this wish by the time Election Day comes. Both parties can’t have a landslide election in the same year, but certainly every party wishes their numbers would grow in each chamber of the legislature. The one policymaker most likely to get his wish is Governor Kitzhaber whose remarkable policy achievements (if not undone by the Cover Oregon website) and widespread popularity leave him to be the undisputed frontrunner in his re-election bid.
Ballot Measure Truce
Oregon’s business and labor communities have more than a dozen competing measures taking aim at each other for the 2014 election. A truce between both sides — where each withdraws their respective measures — would be of welcome relief to politicians weary of another potential business vs. labor fight at the ballot box.
The nice thing about wish lists is sometimes they come true.