Every legislative session is a puzzle, and as challenging as our recent sessions have been, the puzzle this time around is more complex than any other I’ve encountered in eight years of doing this work.
There is a combination of policies, timing, needs, resources and politics that does not lend itself to straightforward solutions. In the most recent session, we had the dynamic of a 30/30 tie in the Oregon House, and as un-charted as that process was at the start, the straightforward solution was very clear. We had to, and we did, negotiate every piece of the budget and every piece of legislation, with the basic requirement of balancing the budget in difficult financial times being the primary priority.
This year, there are several very significant priorities demanding attention, and it is not a matter of just negotiating the path for votes, it’s a matter of the priorities being wrapped together in a way that makes a solution for one a potential setback for another.
The clearest example of part of this puzzle is funding for K-12, which is a huge priority for all involved, and changes to the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) to keep that system stable and repair it after the severe losses it took in the Wall Street crash.
So piece of the puzzle Number One: how do you help kids without hurting retirees? It should never be an either/or, and I’m determined to not let this piece become one.