Tony Corcoran showed us how to bridge the gap and move forwardThe story of Tony Corcoran is an example of what ails the fair state of Oregon. Corcoran quit his day job last week with Service Employees International Union Local 503 because the union had punished him for his activities in the Oregon Legislature. The SEIU stripped Corcoran of 15 years of seniority and removed him from his job. And what prompted those actions? Sen. Corcoran was a leader in reforming the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System. Union leaders deny this was a reprisal.
Reform of the PERS system could not have occurred without Corcoran's diplomacy or the votes of union-loyal Democrats like him. In other words, it was like President Richard Nixon going to China. That is, Corcoran's actions had far more credibility because he came to the task of pension reform not as a union-hater, but as a lifelong union ally.
Corcoran's epiphany was significant. If we don't have a few more such legislative breakthroughs, we are doomed to the kind of religious stand-offs that get us nowhere.
Reviving that spirit of gridlock last week, state Republican leader Kevin Mannix stoked the fires of nowhere politics. Responding to a question about the Oregon appearance of James Carville, Mannix said: "Nobody's going to be able to hear his message over the loud noise of the largest tax increase in Oregon history, which all elected Democrats supported."
Gee, Kevin, weren't there a few Republican votes that moved that income tax surcharge? In fact, Kevin, isn't it safe to say that the income tax surcharge would not have moved without those Republicans? And, Kevin, didn't those GOP legislators actually take the lead in moving it? And, Kevin, didn't you encourage them during a visit to the Capitol?
Gov. Ted Kulongoski recently challenged the state's leading business organization to look at the bigger picture. Speaking to Associated Oregon Industries on Sept. 26, Kulongoski said: "Being a pro-jobs Democrat is not easy. And when leading Oregon business organizations - like AOI - come out against a revenue bill that keeps our budget balanced, our bond rating high, our schools open and our Legislature out of special session - it becomes even less easy.
"... I don't want to balance the budget on your backs - or the backs of any other constituency. What I want is shared sacrifice and long-term gain - even if it means short-term pain."
In the wake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's victory in the California recall last week, one observer commented that unless legislators are willing to compromise, there will be no progress. The same is true up here. Unless AOI will emulate the courage of Tony Corcoran, we are doomed to replay the dark history of the last six years.