Sunday, October 13, 2013

Special Sessions comment

I was irked by today's op-ed lauding Oregon's recent special session as a model for the future. Below is a comment on the story, with the intended formatting. The O's commenting system has a grudge against paragraphs. 

Special sessions are a poor way to run a government.

The recent special session was the embodiment of "quick and dirty" solutions.  It valued short term results- a short term boost and in revenue, a short term boost in school funding- in return for long term, unknown liabilities.  How much of the PERS reform will survive court challenge?  What impact will the tax cut on S corporations have if businesses reorganize so as to take maximum advantage of it?  And in the mix of that short term thinking was pure pork:  a GMO bill that had nothing to do with taxes, nothing to do with education, and that in no way was an emergency requiring immediate intervention.

Oregon may well face an extended period of relative scarcity, where tough decisions that cross traditional interests become routine.  But that makes it more urgent to make such decisions carefully, with full consideration of costs and benefits and long term outcomes.  There are times when leaping before you look may be a good thing.  The management of long term contingent liabilities is not one of them.

Deliberation not only allows for better decisions, it allows the public through its legislative representatives to take ownership of those decisions.  That matters if one believes in democracy and self-government.  What good is a compromise reached only because legislators didn't vote their conscience?  Plus it improves the chances of continuity, and that efforts at reform will be sustained until the underlying problem is solved.  The governor now says PERS reform is off the table.  Is PERS no longer a problem?  Is school funding no longer a problem?

Instead of careful deliberation backed by citizen support what we got in the special session was a plate of spaghetti thrown at the wall.  We can and should do better.

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