Working together pays dividends

In recent years, Oregon lawmakers have not earned a reputation for getting along and working together for the good of the people.

In fact, the stressors of a struggling economy have caused the state to become more and more polarized in political philosophy, leading to sharp disagreements and criticisms of proposed laws. Going into the 2011 session, there seemed to be little reason to expect anything different.

But it was different this time. By most accounts, Oregon lawmakers worked together better than they have in years. Republicans cited victories in education and the budget, and Democrats came away equally pleased, trumpeting improvements to healthcare and the expansion of the bottle bill. Even in the face of missing their session deadline, legislators came together and got work done.

Senator Doug Whitsett (R-Dist. 28) felt the renewed cooperation was born out of necessity. The state budget is in big trouble and the old way of doing business wasn’t working. He and Representative Mike McLane (R-Dist. 55) feel the new balance of power, a virtual split among Democrats and Republicans prompted the improved session as well.

Whatever the reason, we applaud the efforts of state legislators. This is what citizens need their representatives in Salem to do. Partisan politics must be set aside and the needs of all Oregonians need addressed.

That being said, there is absolutely room to improve. This session was by no means perfect. The ongoing lack of jobs remain a critical issue in our economy and while this session did not produce the business-harming bills of the last session, Republicans and Democrats still seem to disagree on whether they actually improved the job market.

Whitsett said the legislature did nothing to improve the business environment, reduce taxes, or improve the labor environment. By contrast, House Democrats claim to have helped small businesses with several new government programs.

So, the legislature avoided taking steps backward for private business, but whether they took steps forward remains in doubt.

We hope that Whitsett and McLane are correct in suspecting that the latest session represents a new, cooperative way of doing business. Until the economy recovers, the state budget crisis remains and unemployment will continue to hang on. We hope that lawmakers not only continue to work together and set aside partisan politics, but take more steps forward toward recovery. In fact, we hope this continues after the economy recovers and the situation is not so dire. As this session has shown, good work gets done when legislators work together.

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