Governor Kitzhaber

Happy Days in Salem

The picture of Governor John Kitzhaber praising legislators for a productive session last week stood in stark contrast to President Obama admonishing Congress to cancel its holiday recess plans and embattled governors in other states. It even was a stark contrast to the last time Kitzhaber was governor and famously pronounced Oregon was ungovernable.

Oregon faced a daunting budget deficit and a politically dicey split House with 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans. Yet the 2011 Oregon legislative session proceeded without much bickering and with some notable results. Public unions weren't pilloried and wealthy Oregonians and businesses weren't bashed en route to balancing the state's budget for the next two years. The Republican and Democratic House co-speakers toured the state together and proclaimed after adjournment they were fast friends.

Sharply different images have emerged from other states. Members of Wisconsin's Senate skipped the state to avoid voting for a bill stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Minnesota's state government HAS shut down because of a budget impasse. Democratic California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a budget approved by a Democratically controlled legislature.

Looming large is the showdown on Capitol Hill over extending the federal debt ceiling before August 2, when Treasury officials warn the United States could begin defaulting on its debts. It has all the elements of a partisan food fight, with Republicans refusing to accept a compromise that closes tax loopholes and Democrats unwilling to budge on deeper spending cuts with more revenue.