The two sides in the increasingly — if that's possible — partisan Oregon Legislature seem intent on mirroring the unpleasantness that flows out of Washington, D.C., like so much sewage. They appear to be playing to their bases, but seem to have little inkling that their partisanship is one of the reasons those bases are shrinking.
A couple of recent releases from the Republican and Democrat wings of the Legislature caught our attention:
- Republicans have been demanding that Democrats include budget cuts and not just tax increases in their plans to balance the state's projected $1.4 billion shortfall. A committee of D's and R's complied and offered up a set of budget cuts that in the first full biennium of implementation would amount to $1.1 billion. Rep. Mike McLane, minority leader of the House (whose district stretches from Madras to Medford, had a decidedly cool response: "The first step in solving any problem is admitting that you have one," McLane said in a statement. "... Whether this package does enough to contain costs over the next decade remains to be seen."
- Meanwhile, Democrats, who have a virtual lock on the Legislature, crowed in a press release about a recently approved bill: "The Oregon Senate Democrats passed a bill today that will help several types of 'at risk' youth and others graduate from high school, giving them a greater foothold to obtain gainful employment and get started down a career path. House Bill 3267 ... was carried by Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) to passage on the Senate floor by a 30-0 vote."
So on one hand we have McLane taking a cheap shot at his counterparts after they, with the agreement of other Republicans, came up with at least some of the cuts GOP leaders had been demanding. Meanwhile the Democrats are taking sole credit for passing a bill that was passed unanimously (Democrats may control the Senate, but there are actual Republican members).
Both sides are so tone-deaf that they have no clue this just comes off to their constituents as petty bickering. Unlike many members of the Legislature, those constituents are more interested in their leaders working together to find consensus than they are in who scores political points with nasty or misleading statements.
Oregon's Legislature was once a place where the state came before the party and where compromise was not a dirty word. With Democrats muscling their way through the sessions and Republicans playing the unhappy victim, there's been little common ground on the major issues facing the legislators. Perhaps they need to remember that those issues are facing all Oregonians and agree to resolve them through leadership rather than partisanship.