Oregon's Last Republican Governor

Former Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh is hailed for laying the foundation for Oregon economic diversity.A piece in the Salem Statesman-Journal brought back a lot of memories for me.

In a column entitled "Atiyeh laid foundation for state's 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.

"'It may be that people realize what we did in that year.  But hardly anybody remembers these things because we did not make a big deal about them. That's OK with me."

Think about this as lawmakers today drive toward adjournment of the first official "annual session." What's needed in the final days of this short session are leaders from both sides of the aisle who will come together to solve the state's problems, including health care reform, education reform, prison reform and balancing the state budget.

Vic Atiyeh did it 30 years ago. It can be done today.


         CFM partner Dave Fiskum worked for Governor Atiyeh for eight years, including management stints in the Department of Human Resources and Economic Development Department.  At one point, Fiskum served as the Governor's press secretary and, from that perch, watched the governor and legislators produce policies honoring the smart middle.