Oregon’s House Republicans held fast Wednesday, blocking the Democratic plan to railroad a damaging tax hike.
Now it’s up to the Senate and the governor to take full advantage of this renewed chance to do the right thing.
Maybe the Senate can avoid the hard-ball partisan approach used by House Speaker Tina Kotek. Maybe the Senate can start with both parties at the table, seeking compromise instead of partisan advantage. Maybe the governor can fully engage and influence the conversation.
That would be in sharp contrast to the approach Kotek took in the House. She declared she wasn’t interested in compromise and claimed she had the two Republican votes she needed to pass a Democratic tax bill that included harmful tax increases on individuals and businesses. But one of the votes she was counting didn’t come through — she won’t say who — and so the House approved an alternative Republican tax plan and sent it to the Senate. The GOP bill garners far less revenue, meaning lawmakers will have to find money elsewhere to fulfill their stated goal to increase education funding.
Lawmakers generally agree that schools need more money but disagree about where to get it. Reforming the Public Employees Retirement System is the best path to get a large chunk of that money, but at this point both chambers have passed a bill that doesn’t go far enough on PERS, and the governor plans to sign it.
Tim Raphael, the governor’s spokesman, said signing the bill doesn’t preclude further legislation on PERS, and the governor will focus on finding a bipartisan solution.
The GOP’s constancy Wednesday has given the Legislature and the governor a tremendous gift: the chance to rectify the overly partisan approach of Kotek’s House, and rediscover the more cooperative bipartisan approach it employed last session when power was more evenly divided.
The timing is another gift. If it were late May instead of April, time would be short to sort out differences and find the right compromises.