Editorial: Assets mitigate Central Oregon’s minority status in the Legislature

Published Nov 12, 2012 at 04:00AM

Central Oregon’s all-Republican legislative delegation faces a newly majority-Democratic state Legislature as it heads into the 2013 session in January. That’s cause for anxiety, given the many differences between the needs and interests of residents east and west of the Cascades.

Central Oregon, however, has two critical assets likely to mitigate the risks.

First is the governor’s 40-40-20 plan for Oregon education. Satisfying its goals requires making room for significantly more students in our colleges and universities at the same time that the Corvallis campus of Oregon State University is maxing out. OSU President Ed Ray has declared that the growth needs to happen at the OSU-Cascades Campus in Bend.

That should put a critical Central Oregon interest — creation of a four-year university in Bend — high on the governor’s wish list. The expansion plan would form a four-year university from the existing two-year capstone program that is paired with Central Oregon Community College. Locals have demonstrated their commitment by quickly raising $2.8 million toward a goal of $4 million by the end of 2013. The plan depends on another $4 million from OSU and $16 million in state bonds that must be approved by the Legislature.

We urge the governor to put funds for the campus expansion in his budget, demonstrating that he understands the implications of his own plan and will urge the Legislature to support this aspect of it.

The second asset is the caliber of Central Oregon’s legislative delegation, reflected in the new role of Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte. McLane was selected Thursday to head the GOP in the state House, a recognition of his capacity for knowledgeable, thoughtful and constructive leadership.

McLane will get strong support from Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend — who has championed money for schools and reform of the troubled public pension system — as well as Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, and Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles. In the Senate, newly elected Tim Knopp, R-Bend, brings significant leadership experience from his early terms as a legislator, when he served as House majority leader. All can be expected to recognize the challenges of their minority position and work effectively for their constituents’ interests.

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