The governor is charged with finding votes to trade tax increases for PERS reforms
Gov. John Kitzhaber began making the rounds throughout the state last week in an attempt to garner the votes needed to pass reforms to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), work that might have been accomplished in the recent session of the Legislature if not for the death of the so-called grand bargain due to a lack of consensus.
The bargain would have required Republicans to vote for tax increases in exchange for Democrats agreeing to decreases in PERS benefits.
Kitzhabers charge is to convince at least two Republicans in the Senate to stray from their party and agree to tax increases. If his travels across the state are fruitful, he will then convene a special session of the Legislature, probably in the fall, with that as the sole agenda item.
Successful passage of PERS reforms would free up more money for education, the governor and some legislators argue, and that is important because Oregons schools have been hard hit by the recession, requiring many school districts to cut days, teachers and programs at a time when work orders for local companies are rising while at the same time they cannot find skilled labor.
We dont envy Kitzhabers task: trying to get legislators to look past regional and partisan politics toward what is best for the entire state has proven very difficult in the past. Were confident, though, that he has the political savvy and wherewithal to get the job done.