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Entries in Compromise (2)


Oregon's Last Republican Governor

A piece in the Salem Statesman-Journal brought back a lot of memories for me.

In a column entitled "Atiyeh Laid Foundation for Oregon Economic Diversity," state government reporter Peter Wong recalled the last Republican governor of the state, Vic Atiyeh, who is approaching his 89th birthday. He still goes to his office in Portland and often shows up for ceremonial events at the Capitol he loved where he served as a state senator and held the governor's office for eight years.

I had the privilege of working for the Atiyeh Administration from 1979 through 1987.

Here are excerpts from Wong's piece:

"He (Atiyeh) turns 89 on Monday – and this month also marks 30 years since he took part in the longest special session of the Oregon legislature in state history. Officially, that session lasted 37 days, ending on March 1. But lawmakers took a weeklong break in the middle of the session after they found that the gap between tax collections and state spending was $100 million more than had been projected.

"The unlikely combination of a Republican governor and Democratic legislative majorities — with some Republican support — cut spending and raised taxes to balance the budget. They started the two-year cycle in mid-1981 with a spending plan for $3.2 billion — the Oregon Lottery did not exist then — and ended it with $2.9 billion, even after the tax increases. The unspent balance in the tax-supported general fund was around $3 million.

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Finding the Smart Middle

The run-up to an election season, both nationally and in Oregon, may not be the best time to write about the need to find the smart middle, the place where compromise produces solutions to problems that plague this state and this country.

Still, it is a worthwhile exercise to discuss how all of us — observers, voters and those running for election — need to prepare for the artful work that is beyond electioneering, which is governing.

In a lead editorial, The Oregonian properly credited business leaders and elected officials in Oregon with trying "to get together" to solve problems such as education and health care reform. To be sure, those reforms are now "proposals," not accomplished facts. But the very theme of a meeting between business and government leaders December 12-13 in Portland, contains the appropriate admonition — "Time to Deliver.”

As The Oregonian reports, it was just about two years ago that elected officials and business leaders couldn't stand to be in the same room. Today, they stand together. What's the difference? Well, displaying both individual preferences and collective wisdom, voters elected about an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to hold office in Salem. That turned out to be a prescription for compromise in the most recent legislative session, 2011 — compromise that had escaped legislators in the previous four sessions.

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