New session nears for Oregon Legislature

Sen. Ted Ferrioli

 SALEM — For 14 years, Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) has been an outspoken supporter of rural Oregon in the Capitol. First elected to the state Senate in 1997, Ferrioli has been minority leader since 2005. He recently was re-elected to the post.

 Following are excerpts from a December interview with Ferrioli.

 Q Obviously, the 18-12 supermajority Republicans faced last session wasn’t workable. Is the current 16-14 makeup of the Senate workable?

 A I think it is better. It should be 16-14 the other way in my opinion. We came within 273 votes of having a 15-15 (split).

 Q How do you think the session will play out?

 A The session will play out almost exclusively on reduction of spending, and it won’t be an easy task for Democrats, and they are going to need help from Republicans to do that.

 Q Can you explain that?

 A You build a reputation for delivering services to constituents, and (in some cases) you actually go out and build those constituencies. So when you have to withdraw those services, it is awfully hard on the people who are the architect of those programs. It isn’t that there is any particular group better than any other when it comes to spending money, because Republicans spend money, too. But when it comes to reductions, (Republicans) aren’t so wedded to the idea that the public sector jobs are the best jobs in Oregon.

 I don’t remember who it was that I heard say it, but it sounded really logical: Anything you can find in the Yellow Pages, the government ought not to be doing. If that service is available in the private sector, you really have to ask yourself, why are we competing with it? If anything, we ought to contract for it.

 But if you mention “contracting out” to anybody on the other side of the aisle, it’s quickly apparent who their constituencies are: It is the public employees unions. And they just throw a fit.

 The terrible truth is, we’re $3 billion-and-counting under the revenue projections. There are no savings. You can’t find it. And you can’t borrow it. And the state treasurer says you can’t bond it. And I doubt we’re going to get stimulus monies.

 So look at the box we’re in: The only logical thing for us to do is to reduce spending to meet projectable income. And it’s public employment that costs the greatest share of our disposable dollars.

 Q Do you have any specific tactics for cutting government spending?

 A We ought to bring in every state agency head and find some way to release them momentarily from their obligation to support the

governor’s budget, and say to them: What things can you no longer afford to do, and what things can you no longer develop or deliver

given all these constraints?

 We ought to get that list, and then bring that list into Legislative Fiscal and Legislative Counsel, and have them comb out the costs and

administrative rules that are connected to those programs. And then we ought to reduce those costs and repeal the administrative rules.

Every one of these programs causes a forest of administrative rules and mandates to other units of government across the state of Oregon.

(That includes) reporting requirements, compilation of figures, specific ways of doing things, mostly related to command and control

and accountability.

 If you don’t have an agency that can deal with the information or use the mandated product, we ought to just release those folks from the obligation, because it cuts cost.

 Now Washington (state) did it with the stroke of a pen: Gov. (Chris) Gregoire said for the next two years, there is a moratorium on any new administrative rule. At least that stops the growth of the fastest growing area of government, which is administration. We ought to do better than that. We ought to have that moratorium and then start decertifying, unwiring and kicking the plug on rules.

 Q We’ve heard there will be an attempt to put a sunset on measures 66 and 67 (the corporate gross receipts and personal income tax increases that voters approved in 2010). What do you think of that?

 A Oh, that would be good. Let’s go back and look at what was said about measures 66 and 67, and see what happened and what didn’t.  (Democrats said) “No businesses are going to leave Oregon. We’re going to collect X hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. It’s not going to harm Oregon’s business climate. It isn’t the odious, horrible thing these crazy Republicans are saying that it is.”

 The Legislature wrote the ballot title. The Legislature wrote the measure explanation. And you compare the measure explanation with the debate that took place in this building, and the reality of measures 66 and 67 is a lot closer to what the critics said it would be than

what the proponents said.

 We’re going to come out of this thing with a really clear understanding of what the business community was trying to say, which

is we’ll support measures 66 and 67 if it is temporary, because at some point in time we need to come out of this death spiral, and this

is just going to make it harder.

 Q Can you sum up your approach to the 2011 session?

 A I think it is really obvious to me this legislative session is about spending and controlling spending and prioritizing what is important

to people. Our job is to make jobs. Government doesn’t create jobs, but it certainly can kill them and hamper them.

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