Editorial: Bridge and investment council need Legislature’s attention

Published Mar 12, 2014 at 12:01AM

Oregon lawmakers turned off the lights and went home Friday without final action on two issues that, we hope, will be back in some form relatively quickly.

They failed to act to finance an Oregon-only new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River, even as they failed to reorganize the way the state’s investment council does business. Both offered long-term benefits to the state and its citizens.

The Columbia River Crossing between Portland and Vancouver, Wash., had been in the works for at least 10 years. It was controversial and it was expensive, likely to cost close to $3 billion in the scaled-down version that was on the table. Lawmakers were unwilling to commit to the project for a variety of reasons, and it died for lack of action.

For now the state is mothballing its CRC reports, studies and the like. We hope they’re needed again sooner, rather than later.

Then there’s the remake of the state treasurer’s office. It would have created a new agency run by the Oregon Investment Council and headed by the treasurer, currently Ted Wheeler, and brought a variety of management functions in-house.

Doing so would have saved Oregon billions of dollars over time, and that money would have gone straight into the Public Employees Retirement System pension accounts and the State Accident Insurance Fund, to the tune of 2.8 billion over the next 20 years.

Lawmakers seemed on board with the plan until near the end of the 2014 session, when worries grew about a lack of legislative oversight in the proposed model. As with the proposed bridge legislation, the bill creating the change died for lack of action when the session ended Friday.

In the end, the failure of both point out the biggest flaw in the 2014 and previous even-year legislative sessions. Short as they are, there’s no time to deal effectively with complex issues, as both of these are. Their fates may have been different if lawmakers had exercised some self discipline and left knotty problems like the CRC and the investment council remake for the much longer odd-year session.