Gov. Kate Brown’s disdain for rural Oregon is showing.
Brown is considering several legislative vetoes, and all but one target the districts of rural lawmakers who opposed her beloved carbon cap-and-trade legislation, House Bill 2020. The exception is legislation that affects the Oregon Medical Board budget.
The governor’s staff said the potential vetoes are to ensure good policy, not for revenge politics.
Really? This is the governor who only a few days ago, when asked whether she would exact retribution against senators who allowed HB 2020 to die, responded, “revenge is a dish best served cold and slowly.”
Brown announced her potential vetoes on Sunday, which means they could happen late this week. It is astounding that she would consider Oregonians so gullible as to believe her statement that she is aiming at legislation which “allocated public funds without appropriate public accountability measures and without ensuring the responsible use of taxpayer dollars.”
This is the governor who two years ago vetoed $2.6 million for projects backed by then-Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, saying she was holding him accountable for breaking a “straightforward agreement” to support the Oregon Health Plan. Esquivel had provided the lone Republican vote in the Oregon House needed for passage of the OHP funding. But he then tried to overturn that funding through a referendum.
At least Brown had the guts to admit her retaliation in her veto letter. The laughable irony is that she began that letter by saying her leadership style was to establish goals and work with others “to achieve these goals collaboratively using the democratic process and without being dictatorial.”
Brown backed off vetoing a third Esquivel project after hearing from people in Southern Oregon. Maybe there is a chance she will change her mind this week on the potential vetoes,
Don’t count on it. Brown’s attitude toward rural Oregon came through loudly and clearly in an Oregon Capital Bureau story this week: “That time frame where urban Oregon was dependent on rural Oregon was a while ago,” Brown said. “I would say probably more than four decades ago. So I don’t think we can go back to those times.”
Yes, times have changed. But Brown seems clueless as to how dependent urban Oregon is on the food, fiber, energy, water, recreational opportunities and, yes, the timber and other natural resources of rural Oregon — not to mention the new data centers and other rural industries.
Brown’s threat to veto HB 2437 is a direct attack on agriculture. Among other things, the bill would make it easier for farmers and ranchers to clear ditches without a state permit and expensive environmental consultation. Of the 90 Oregon legislators, 60 voted for the bill, but some hardcore environmental groups have continued fighting it.
It is important to note that one sponsor of HB 2437 was Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who opposed the awful version of carbon cap and trade favored by Brown and many other Democrats. Other opponents of that carbon bill included Sens. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario; Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay; and, although her opposition was not as public, Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham.
Brown’s potential vetoes target projects in Roblan’s and Bentz’s Senate districts. The projects are contained in HB 5050, the end-of-session “Christmas tree” budget bill that passed the Legislature with only four dissenting votes.
Brown said she was considering a line-item veto of the $4 million allocated to the city of Newport for work on replacing the Big Creek Dams. Roblan is Newport’s state senator.
The dams are deemed unsafe, but Brown complained that the Legislature had not approved her budget proposals to study the state’s most dangerous dams and create a dam safety task force. She said next year’s Legislature should fund those proposals before “dedicating funds and planning work on any specific dam.”
Her duplicity ignores that HB 5050 also included $14 million to rehabilitate the Wallowa Lake Dam, an important project and one that she has championed as illustrating her commitment to rural Oregon.
Bentz represents much of Eastern Oregon. Brown said she might veto the $500,000 in HB 5050 for grants to Eastern Oregon counties for developing economic opportunities outside urban growth boundaries. The grants would complement Senate Bill 2, which Brown signed into law and which was sponsored by Bentz; Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena; and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.
Courtney had angered Brown and environmentalists by announcing — accurately — that the climate change legislation lacked the votes for Senate passage, even though supporters disagreed.
If Brown is trying to teach certain legislators a lesson, it is not one of leadership or statesmanship.