Salem's 'Grand Bargain' in limbo

The off-again, on-again "Grand Bargain" appears to be in limbo as many Republicans remain sidelined in Salem without a clear direction from Gov. John Kitzhaber.

"We have yet to do anything," said Rep. Sal Esquivel.

The Medford Republican said Kitzhaber has acted irresponsibly by calling for a special session without making sure he had enough political support.

"The problem I see here is he called a special session and didn't count noses," Esquivel said.

On Sunday night, the entire Grand Bargain had fallen apart with not enough votes to back it, but Monday morning it was a different story, Esquivel said.

"It's like the ashes of the Phoenix," he said. "It's a bird again."

Esquivel said he has only a general idea of the bills that he might be considering, but hasn't seen a written proposal yet. Also, there is talk at the Capitol that there are amendments to the bills, which further adds to the confusion, Esquivel said.

Kitzhaber has proposed a mix of tax increases on upper income earners as well as reforms for the Public Employees Retirement System. The goal is to boost education spending throughout the state.

Also on the table is Senate Bill 633, which would give the state the authority over regulating GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. The bill allows an exception for Jackson County, whose voters will consider an ordinance in 2014 that proposes a local ban on GMOs.

— Damian Mann

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