This week’s Q&A is with House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown. I’ve posted the interview in the order in which they were conducted, as usual, asked each the same broad questions, and included everything each lawmaker said. The conversations cover marijuana, public safety bills, taxes and job creation. And no interview would be complete without talking about the budget. Enjoy.
Rep. Richard DeBolt:
Q: There are currently bills to close state government for one day per month, limit state worker salaries and another in the House to make official about $50 million in cuts from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget. Which of those do you support, what other ideas do you have and what’s the timeline?
DeBolt: I guess the first thing that I would like to say about it is we saw some of these problems because we have a systematically flawed budget process. We have to change how we budget and what our priorities are.
I would break the budgeting process up: I would do an education only budget first. It’s our paramount duty, so we should fund it first. Then we can fund public safety and the vulnerable. Then, with whatever is left, you make the rest of your budget. So you protect the children and the most vulnerable.
Q: What about the furloughs?
DeBolt: As far as furloughs, we haven’t had a chance to explore the bills fully yet. The bills were introduced and the process probably broke down a little bit so we don’t have all the details yet.
From my perspective, we think everything should be on the table. We need to make sure that what we’re doing to balance the budget is real – not just delaying costs until later.
Q: You mentioned an education-first budget. When I was covering the Oregon Legislature in 2005, the Republican House Speaker suggested a similar proposal to fund education first.
DeBolt: Oh yeah — and what happened?
Q: It didn’t pass, and they were in session for about eight months that year because the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate couldn’t agree on much. Why is that a controversial idea?
DeBolt: I remember that. We’ve been suggesting the education-budget first idea since 2002. We haven’t even gotten a hearing on it.
Q: Why do you think that is?
DeBolt: I think that Olympia is stuck in the past and has a tendency to be myopic in their viewpoints. So if its outside the box, it’s probably not going to be considered. We’re not a super change-oriented place.
Q: So would closing state government for one day a month be something you could support?
DeBolt: I don’t know because for some services, it could be problematic. For example, I want to get our permitting wait times down. Can they do the same amount of work if we’re furloughing people? That’s of interest to me. I don’t know how the functions of government would be changed. I don’t know if you can just arbitrarily close all the agencies and make it work. If it’s agencies that support our economy and help move us forward, we shouldn’t slow that down.
Q: One big policy issue has been public safety, in the wake of the police shootings last year. A Constitutional amendment is on the table — is that the right move? Is there danger in amending the Constitution so soon after these crimes? (more…)