Oregon and California: Several Comparisons

Oregonians may not like it, but there are a few comparisons to California worth considering:

  • Both states have elected former governors who have been out of office for several years - Democrat Jerry Brown in California and Democrat John Kitzhaber in Oregon.
  • Both states face huge budget deficits, – $28 billion for California and $3.5 billion for Oregon – which is about right, given that the economy of California is often considered as significant as "another country."
  • Both states will be attempting to cut budgets without increasing new taxes.  In California, Brown says he won't increase taxes without a vote of the people.  In Oregon, Kitzhaber has not talked about new taxes, but may be forced to raise the prospect when everyone sees how deep budget cuts will go.
  • Both states are looking forward, with a combination of dread and expectancy, to the release of the "Governor's Recommended Budget" for the next two years.  In California, Brown's budget recommendations were announced on January 10.  In Oregon, Kitzhaber has until February 1 to make his recommendations known.

The new - call them old - governors were elected in close and hotly contested races, as both banked on their experience to convince voters that they were up to their respective state's top political job.

Only time will tell if that promise is met.

In California, January 3 was inauguration day for the new governor who, in a Desert Sun newspaper article, urged "lawmakers to rise above partisan bickering" as he warned all Californians that tough budget choices will be required to balance the state budget.  "This year," he said, "will demand courage and sacrifice.  There is no other way forward."

After taking the oath of office, Brown said he was committed to continuing California's renewable energy portfolio and improving the state's public schools.  Such goals, he maintained, could be attained "if decision-makers put loyalty to community above loyalty to political parties.”

Those would be good words for Oregon, too.

Meanwhile, here, not much as been said about the new Kitzhaber Administration, even though the governor took the reigns of state government more than two weeks ago.  So far, only two agency heads have been named – Katy Coba to reprise her role as head of the Department of Agriculture and Scott Harra to move from the Department of Administrative Services to an acting job as head of the Department of Consumer and Business Services.

It would be logical to expect a flurry of announcements in the next few days as the new governor completes a round of interviews with the 24 agency heads from whom he asked specifically for resignation letters. Most of them are serving until the new governor makes a decision either way.