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Kitzhaber brokers ballot measure peace deal

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has brokered a deal to cancel competing labor-related ballot measures drives.

In a Monday afternoon press release, Kizhaber's office said that, in response to his public call for a mutual stand-down on the looming fights between unions and business interests, the state’s largest public employee unions and sponsors of right-to-work and dues check-off measures have agreed to formally withdraw 12 measures from the 2014 ballot measure process.

According to the statement, the decision to avoid competing ballot measures follows an agreement reached in February between the Service Employee International Union and many of the state’s largest hospitals. Following that agreement, an additional five ballot initiative petitions were withdrawn.

"This is an unprecedented moment in Oregon’s long history of ballot measure politics," Kitzhaber said in the statement. "Over the last three years, we have shown time and time again that no matter how wide the ideological divide might be, people on different sides of issues are able to come together for the greater good of Oregon and our citizens.

"Instead of spending millions on ballot measure battles, we have an agreement that provides an opportunity for people to work with one another on solving Oregon’s biggest problems. I appreciate the willingness of the measures’ sponsors to take this enormous step forward."

In response, Keep Oregon Working, the committee behind the union-backed measures, issued the following statement:

As of 2:00 p.m. today, chief petitioners for Initiative Petitions 1 and 9 — the anti-worker initiatives — as well as the chief petitioners for several revenue-raising initiatives, have formally withdraw their proposed initiatives, keeping them off the 2014 ballot.

Since last year, the Governor has talked about wanting to keep these initiatives off the ballot so that he could continue his revenue reform efforts. Withdrawing them clears the way for his process to continue.

Like everyone else in Oregon who cares about our schools, health care services, and public safety, we’ll be watching the Governor’s revenue reform efforts closely.

The best news out of this deal is that Oregon workers will not have to face a major, multi-million dollar attack from out-of-state corporate interests. While the Koch Brothers and ALEC are moving these anti-worker laws around the country, we won’t have to face that threat this year.

The need for revenue is clear. We have the third largest K-12 class sizes in the nation, and one of the shortest school years. Our kids are getting less and less instruction time, and very little one-on-one instruction, thanks to very large classes. We continue to see threats to the services that seniors and working families depend on, making it more difficult for struggling Oregonians to stay afloat.

While it’s great news that we won’t be facing a major anti-worker initiative this year, it’s critical that we remain vigilant about what’s happening to working families right now. While corporate profits and incomes for the top 1% are at all time highs, wages and incomes for working people have fallen since the end of the recession.

We’ll continue to highlight the growing gap between the wealthiest households and everyone else, and we’ll continue to look for ways to make Oregon’s economy more fair for everyone.