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Oregon: Progressive Agenda, Yet Facing Great Fiscal Risks

  • Author(s): Henkels, Mark
  • Steel, Brent S.
  • et al.
Abstract

The 2018 midterm elections strengthened the Democrats’ control of Oregon’s state government. Governor Kate Brown won re-election with 50percent of the vote defeating moderate Republican Knute Buehler with 46.6percent of the vote.  Democrats also increased their seats in both the House and Senate, leading to super majorities in both houses. Governor Brown and the Democrats in Salem have taken fairly strong progressive policy stances in 2017 and 2018, particularly opposing President Trump’s immigration and marijuana policies, reinforcing the West Coast carbon-reduction pattern, and strongly supporting health care coverage expansion. With a booming economy and unemployment at record lows, the state seems to be able to deliver on its progressive agenda for the 2017-19 biennium, but funding progressive policies in the future will be a challenge for the governor for a variety of reasons. The fate of this progressive vision depends on five elements: (1) the continuation of the favorable economy and the corresponding revenue growth in the approaching budget cycle; (2) the ability to manage the ongoing taxing and spending structures that include major obligations for the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS); (3) the constraints of ongoing dependency on income taxes; (4) the vicissitudes of Trump era politics and policy with declining federal funds; and (5) continued public support for expansive public policies.

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