Democrat Eileen Kiely, 59, and Republican Jack Zika, 40, are squaring off to fill the Oregon House seat being vacated by Gene Whisnant. Of the two, Zika will best represent the district that includes Redmond and Sunriver.
Kiely, a Sunriver resident and ski instructor, would solve many of the state’s problems by raising taxes. The Public Employees Retirement System needs a financial fix? Write a payment plan and raise taxes to make it work. Do our bit for climate change? Vote for the Democrats’ cap-and-invest scheme, a plan that is, in her opponent’s words, “a hidden sales tax” that would drive up the cost of living for everyone in Oregon. Family leave? Tax employers and employees. Oregon Health Plan? Find more taxes.
You get the idea.
Zika wants to solve those problems, as well. PERS takes money from Oregon classrooms, he says, and it must be fixed. He likes the plan put forward by gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler, which would cap payout at $100,000 per year, require public employees to invest in their pension accounts and switch future employees to a 401(k) plan used by many employers. He’d also end the practice of “spiking,” which allows public employees to inflate their last years’ salaries to increase their retirement payout.
He counts homelessness as a major problem statewide, and he would bring a realistic view to the table when lawmakers address the matter. As a real estate broker, he has a good understanding of housing and the things that make it more or less affordable. He notes there’s talk about doing away with the state income-tax deduction for mortgage payments, a move that would drive up housing costs for nearly every homeowner in the state. In fact, Zika’s approach to housing problems come not only from his business life, but from his volunteer time with Habitat for Humanity and the Redmond Planning Commission.
Zika promises to be a levelheaded, fiscally conservative lawmaker who would choose new taxes not as a first answer to a problem, but as a last resort. In a state that U.S. News and World Reports ranks 45th for affordability (37th for cost of living and 47th for housing affordability) he’d work to improve those numbers, not make them worse.