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The special session should not have been necessary

After a rocky start, the one-day-turned-three-day special session of the Oregon Legislature has seemingly met its mark.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers reached a compromise on PERS reform that may not please everyone, but at least took a step in the right direction and cut about 30 percent of the $14 billion the system faces in unfunded liability.

Republicans approved tax increases on high-income businesses, while Democrats in turn approved what Representative Mike McLane called the largest business tax cut in Oregon history.

While we applaud the way legislators broke gridlock on important issues, we still take exception with the fact that a special session became necessary in the first place. After all, they were given the longer of their two annual sessions, five months, to reach some kind of agreement - and suddenly they found a way to do it in three days after their initial block of time had run out.

It's not unlike two children being told by their parents at the beginning of the day to finish their household chores before they can go out to ice cream. The children ultimately fight over the most unpleasant chore, insisting that the other do the hardest part of the job. In the end, the job doesn't get done, and at the risk of losing their ice cream date, the children scramble to finish the chore, equally sharing unpleasant tasks.

Lawmakers seemingly did the same thing, and we believe they could have completed the task much earlier and avoided the special session had they agreed to share the dirty work. Furthermore, they could have saved taxpayers some money. According to Watchdog.org, the special session cost $44,849.

To continue the child's chore parallel a bit further, it's entirely possible that the children, in their haste, left out some detail of the chore that they will have to deal with later. Likewise, the legislature passed these five bills so quickly, the details could spawn unintended consequences that will need work. Senator Doug Whitsett, a critic of the special session process, prefers to read through and analyze bills before he votes. He contended that such a short session eliminates that possibility.

In the future, we hope that the legislature will take care of the important "chores" during the ample time they are given. They approved annual sessions in order to get more work done, and we believe there is no reason they should need even more time beyond that.

In all likelihood, during the 2014 legislative session, lawmakers will take another crack at PERS reform and other pressing state issues. Hopefully, they will find a way to get the work done, hard as it may be, and not refuse to compromise and save problems for later.



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