Here is a brief review of Tuesday’s election and its implications for higher education in Oregon as we approach the 2017 legislative session.

Governor’s Race

Democrat Kate Brown defeated Republican Bud Pierce with just over a 50% majority. She carried seven of Oregon’s 36 counties: Columbia, Benton, Hood River, Lane, Lincoln, Multnomah, and Washington. Brown will serve a two-year term, because this was a special election – required to complete the two years remaining in former Governor John Kitzhaber’s fourth term. She is expected to run again in 2018 for a full four-year term. As Oregon approaches the 2017 legislative session, Brown will face her first opportunity to develop her own budget and policy priorities as governor.


Secretary of State

With 47% of the vote, Republican Dennis Richardson, who ran unsuccessfully for governor against Kitzhaber in 2014, defeated Democrat Brad Avakian, who is currently serving as Oregon’s Labor Commissioner. The race is notable because it is the first time that a Republican has been elected to a statewide office since 2002, when Gordon Smith won his second term in the US Senate. Richardson carried 30 Oregon counties. Avakian won in the same counties as Brown, less Columbia County, and with significantly smaller margins. For some observers, Richardson’s victory signifies improved chances for the Republicans in the 2018 election, whether it is Richardson for governor, or perhaps a more moderate candidate, if one is able to prevail in the Republican primary.


The defeat of Ballot Measure 97 and the budget implications for the 2017-19 biennium

By a margin of some 19 points (59 to 40%), Oregon voters rejected Ballot Measure 97, which would have generated an anticipated $3 billion increase in state general fund revenues from a receipts tax on large corporations. The measure’s defeat leaves Oregon legislators facing a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit – about 8% of the state’s $18 billion general fund budget for the 2017-19 biennium. Following the election, Brown issued the following release:

Post Measure 97, Governor Brown’s Budget Will Prioritize Children, Lifting Families Out of Poverty

“In the coming days, I’ll meet with legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle to discuss budget priorities and next steps in preparation for the 2017 session.

“Following these discussions, on December 1 I’ll release a balanced budget that makes every effort to protect vulnerable Oregonians to the greatest extent possible.

“I will give priority to protecting services for children and helping lift families out of poverty. Given the severe constraints, we will still have to make a number of heartbreaking cuts.

“Looking forward, if we expect to improve our dismal high school graduation rate, help more families achieve self-sufficiency, and keep Oregonians safe and healthy, we need stable and adequate revenue.

“I call on both the proponents and opponents of Measure 97 to find common ground and develop solutions that Oregonians support. As I evaluate potential options, I’ll look for proposals that provide adequate and stable revenue, do not hurt struggling families, and bring increased fairness to Oregon’s tax system.”

Universities respond:  Notably absent from the Governor’s priorities, Oregon’s seven public university presidents also issued a statement calling for a $100 million increase for higher education:

“We understand that yesterday’s vote means some very tough choices lie ahead for the Legislature and the Governor. In the face of these challenges, we believe that by working together we can still keep our public universities affordable for all Oregon students. Now is the time to continue the progress we have made over the last biennium. As our elected leaders weigh difficult budget decisions, we urge them to invest a minimum of $100 million for Oregon’s university students to continue to clamp down on student costs and debt. This investment will allow all campuses to keep tuition increases to a manageable level for the next two years and ensure that students can graduate without taking on a lifetime of debt. Oregon’s public universities are the incubators of ideas and solutions, and we are educating the workforce and leaders of tomorrow. We stand ready to work with legislators and the Governor to address the challenges that lie ahead.”

Next steps:  In early December Brown is required to propose a balanced budget for consideration during the 2017 session. State budget writers have been working on alternatives for the past three months. The Governor’s proposal will be further informed on Wednesday, November 16 when the State Economist issues his third quarter revenue forecast. That forecast will indicate what to expect for the remainder of the current biennium as well as what’s ahead for the biennium that begins on July 1, 2017. For those interested, the forecast will be available here.


The Oregon Legislative Assembly

Senate:  Republicans picked up one seat in the Senate, resulting in a 17-13 majority for the Democrats. A total of four new members will join Senate ranks. Two Portland area Democrats – Rep. Kathleen Taylor and Rep. Lew Frederick – will move over from the House. The two other new members are:

  • Alan DeBoer (R-Ashland) – DeBoer, the one Republican pick-up in the Senate, will fill the seat left vacant when Democrat Alan Bates died unexpectedly in August. The Jackson County seat is a “split district” – comprised by two House districts, one held by a Democrat, the other by a Republican. DeBoer is a car dealer and has served as Mayor of Ashland and as a member of the local school board. This seat will be up for election again in 2018 for a full four-year term.
  • Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls) – Linthicum is a software and large-scale database development manager who is presently a Klamath County Commissioner. He has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from UCLA and a master’s degree from Biola University.


House:  Although the House will see a significant increase in its diversity and a turnover of nearly a quarter of its members, the party margin of 35 Democrats and 25 Republicans will remain unchanged. As with the Senate, no changes in leadership are expected. The 14 new House members are:

  • David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford) – Currently serving as a Curry County Commissioner, Smith grew up working in, and currently owns and runs, his family’s restaurant, the Port & Starboard. He attended Southern Oregon Community College and Southern Oregon University.
  • Pam Marsh (D-Ashland) – Marsh is a city council member, small business owner and manager of Ashland’s nonprofit food bank. She was involved in the management and operation of Green Springs Inn and Cabins, which she currently owns and manages with her husband and son. Marsh is a graduate of Southern Oregon University with a BA in Political Science.
  • Julie Fahey (D-Eugene) – Fahey served as Chair of the Lane County Democrats and is currently the Treasurer of the Democratic Party of Oregon. She is co-founder of ThreePoint Consulting, a human resources consulting firm for businesses and non-profits. She is a graduate of Notre Dame.
  • Teresa Alonso Leon (D-Woodburn) – Alonso Leon is a first generation college graduate with a degree from Western Oregon University. She is currently a Woodburn City Council member, and administers GED programs with the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
  • Ron Noble (R-McMinnville) – Noble is the former chief of Police for the City of McMinnville and is active in his church and community organizations. He attended Oregon State University and Seattle University and was a lieutenant in the Corvallis Police Department.
  • Rich Vial (R-Hillsboro) – Vial, a native Oregonian, is an attorney specializing in condominium and planned community developments. He is a graduate of BYU with a degree in Business and Accounting, and he completed his law degree at Willamette. With a large family, including 7 adoptees from Viet Nam, the Vial family owns a 24 acre farm in Scholls. He has served on the Washington County Planning Commission, Land-Use Advisory Committee, and County Fair Board.
  • Sheri Malstrom (D-Beaverton) – Malstrom has more than 30 years of experience as a public health nurse. She has served on the Oregon Commission on Women and was active in Emerge Oregon. Following the death of her husband, she raised 3 young sons as a single parent. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at OHSU.
  • Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro) – Sollman, a Washington county native, has served on the Hillsboro School Board. She works for Vernier Software & Technology, an education software company, based in Washington County.
  • Mark Meek (D-Gladstone) – Meek was the first in his family to graduate high school and then went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in management from Park College in Parkville, Missouri. An Air Force Veteran, Meek owns a small real estate and property management business. He has coached high school football and serves on the Clackamas County Planning Commission and Economic Development Commission.
  • Karin Power (D-Milwaukie) – Power is a nonprofit environmental attorney and Milwaukie City Councilor. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and earned her law degree from Lewis and Clark.
  • Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland) –Sanchez, born of Shoshone-Bannock, Ute, and Carrizo descent, grew up in Portland. She received a Bachelor’s of Arts from Marylhurst University and a Masters in Social Work from PSU. She is a co-founder of the Native American Youth and Family (NAYA) Center and currently serves as the organization’s Family Services Director and Interim Executive Director. She has helped raise 18 foster children and has served on the Oregon Family Services Review Commission and Oregon Child Welfare Advisory Commission.
  • Diego Hernandez (D-Portland) –Hernandez is a product of East Portland’s public schools and worked his way through the University of Oregon, where he earned a BA in Political Science and Ethnic Studies. He also holds a Masters in Social Work from PSU. He is the first Latino elected to the Reynolds School Board and currently serves on the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs. He is the Co-Executive Director of Momentum Alliance, a nonprofit that develops young civic leaders.
  • Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley) – A mother of four children, Bynum owns and operates, with her husband, two McDonalds franchises. She holds an MBA from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University.
  • Werner Reschke (R-Malin) – Reshke grew up in Beaverton, and, after starting at Judson Baptist College in The Dalles, graduated from Oregon State University with BA (honors) degree in Business Administration. With his wife, Reschke owns a small online marketing agency specializing in web design, cloud development and email marketing. His employment history includes time with Georgia-Pacific, Tektronix, and Xerox.


Next Steps

Following Wednesday’s Economic and Revenue Forecast, Governor Brown will put the finishing touches on her Recommended Budget (known as the “GRB”) which is scheduled to be released on Thursday, December 1.

Meanwhile, legislative leaders are putting together committee rosters for the 2017 session. In the Senate, with a turnover of only four members, we do not anticipate significant changes. Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) will continue to Co-Chair the Joint Ways & Means Committee.

In the House, Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) is working to assign a significant number of new members to committees and to designate committee chairs to replace a number of veteran legislators who are retiring or moving to different offices. Two questions important to higher education include: Will the House Higher Education Committee be continued into the next session, and if so, who will chair it? And, who will co-chair the Joint Ways & Means Education Subcommittee which oversees the universities’ operating budgets? Rep. Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene), has already taken the reins from retiring Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) as co-chair of the full Joint Ways & Means Committee, and will continue in that role in 2017.

Legislative Committees will meet for three days, Monday – Wednesday, December 12-14. Committee agendas will likely include a preview of legislative concepts that will come before the legislature when it convenes in January.

If you have questions or would like further information, contact Jock Mills.

The 2016 General Election

What happens during the 2017 legislative session will depend on how voters consider a number of measures that will likely be on the November ballot.  Most noteworthy of these is IP-28, which would create a state corporate receipts tax.  Proponents of the measure claim it will create revenues needed to balance the budget and improve services.  Opponents claim the measure will create an unfair and unbalanced state tax structure that will place Oregon businesses in an unfavorable position.  The Legislative Revenue Office presented an analysis of the measure to the House and Senate Revenue Committees last month. Proponents of the measure rebutted the analysis in a recent editorial in the Oregonian. (As a public entity, OSU does not take positions on ballot measures.)


May Committee Days

Throughout the year, legislative committees meet on a quarterly basis.  Following the February 2016 short session, committees met in May.  While a number of committees and task forces will meet occasionally over the summer, the next formal committee session is scheduled for the week of September 19th.  Here are some highlights from the committee sessions in May:

  • Upon the favorable recommendation of the Senate Rules & Executive Appointments Committee, the full Senate confirmed Governor Brown’s appointment of two new members to the OSU Board of Trustees:  OSU Engineering Professor Mike Bailey, past president of the OSU Faculty Senate (filling the position of faculty trustee) and Nike executive and OSU alum Julia Brim Edwards.
  • The House and Senate Committees on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness met jointly and considered possible changes in a 2015 bill that called for priority registration for veterans at Oregon’s seven public universities.  Working with campus veterans groups, representatives from the seven universities plan to develop recommendations for addressing a variety of veterans-related issues and report back to the committees when they meet in September.
  • Governor Kate Brown met with members of the OSU Women’s Basketball team, congratulating them on their historic 2015-16 Final Four season.  Senate President Peter Courtney welcomed the team to the Senate chambers.  You can see pictures from this visit on the Governor’s Twitter page and the Oregon State Women’s Basketball Facebook page.

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Significant Policy and Budget Issues for the 2017-19 Biennium

Over the coming months, our efforts will be aimed at ensuring that legislators, the Governor, and stakeholders are aware of the dividends that have resulted from investments made in higher education during the 2015 legislative session.  In preparation for the 2017 session, we will be highlighting how state bonds for campus capital projects and budget increases for student success initiatives and the OSU statewide public service programs (Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station, and Forest Research Laboratory) have significantly improved OSU’s ability to serve Oregonians.

These efforts will be aimed at making the case for continuing investments needed to maintain the level of student success and economic well-being that have resulted from our work during the 2015 legislative session.  Here is a summary of seven significant initiatives and policy issues we will be pursuing over the coming months:

  • Maintaining Operating Expenditures: All seven public universities are working together to achieve at least a $100 million (15%) increase in operating funds.  This would enable universities to keep tuition increases below 5% and also preserve current financial aid and student support services.  In April the seven public university presidents sent a letter to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) seeking increased funding along these lines.
  • Securing New and Renewed Capital for All Seven Universities:  All seven presidents have also joined together in supporting $284 million in capital funding for the 2017-19 biennium.  At OSU, these projects involve significant capital renewal funds for existing buildings, investments in OSU-Cascades, and a quality food and beverage initiative.
  • Expanding OSU-Cascades:  OSU is developing and implementing a strategy for financing the long-term capital expansion of OSU-Cascades.  Currently, the state maintains a distinct funding stream for OSU-Cascades operations.  We are seeking similar treatment for capital funds in order to achieve the state goal of creating a four-year campus in Central Oregon.  While advocating for OSU-Cascades, we have sought to be clear that the state’s decision to establish an eighth campus in Central Oregon should not come at the expense of the existing seven public university campuses in Oregon.
  • Maintaining the OSU Statewides:  In 2015, the legislature allocated a $14 million increase for the OSU Statewide Public Service Programs (Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station and Forest Research Laboratory).  This level of funding needs to be maintained with an appropriate “continuing service level” increase in 2017.
  • Improving the Implementation of State Financial Aid Programs:  All seven universities are working together to address and resolve significant shifts in financial aid resources that have occurred over the last year.  In particular, we are working to understand how state investments in the Oregon Promise program (“free community college”) and changes in the Oregon Opportunity Grant program may affect state funding for low-income students who attend four-year universities.
  • Investing in State Economic Development Programs:  The research universities are working together to develop and implement a state Economic Development and Research Budget Strategy.  These efforts may include investments in inter-connectivity among and between campuses and a re-vamping of the state’s Innovation Council.
  • Continuing the Seven Public University Alliance: All seven universities are working together to be responsive and proactive on a wide variety of intricate policy issues likely to present themselves prior to and during the 2017 legislative session.

Tuesday, March 8th was the deadline for legislative candidates to file for the 2016 elections.  A review of the filings, indicates that the 2017 session will include a high degree of turnover in the Oregon House and a relatively static Senate.


House Turnover:  A total of 14 representatives will be retiring or seeking higher office. While 23% turnover is fairly typical from session to session, most notable is the departure of ten Democrats, including four who come from potential “swing” districts that have elected Republicans at some time in the past three election cycles.  While redistricting has changed the party composition of these districts, the open-seat races below involve blue districts that could switch to red:

  • District 22 (Salem, Woodburn, Gervais, Brooks), currently held by Betty Komp (D).  Republican Marion County Commissioner and former state legislator Patty Milne will face Democrat Woodburn City Councilmember Teresa Leon, who also works for the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
  • District 30 (Hillsboro, North Plains), currently held by Joe Gallegos (D) who announced his retirement on filing day.  The Republican candidate is Dan Mason, who ran unsuccessfully for both this district in 2014 and for House District 34 (Beaverton) in 2012.  He is currently a community manager with Prime Group, a residential real estate firm.  Democrat contender Janeen Sollman is a Hillsboro school board member.
  • District 40 (Gladstone, Johnson City), currently held by Brent Barton (D).  The Republican Candidate is Evon Tekorius, an Oregon City School Board member and business manager with a fire-investigation firm she started with her husband in 2003.  Three Democrats are vying for the seat in the May primary, including Mark Meek, a realtor and Air Force veteran who serves on the Clackamas County Planning Commission; Terry Gibson, a Marylhurst adjunct instructor who serves on the Oak Lodge Sanitary District and Schoolyard Farms Board; and attorney and Army veteran Steven Cade, whose practice involves civil rights and disability claims.
  • District 51 (SE Portland, Clackamas, Damascus, Boring, Estacada), currently held by Shemia Fagan (D) who announced her retirement as the filing deadline neared.  The Republican candidate is Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a long time Happy Valley City Council member who is currently serving as Mayor of Happy Valley. Two Democrats will be vying against each other in the May primary:  Janelle Bynum, a Happy Valley McDonald’s franchisee supported by Fagan; and Randy Shannon, a Damascus City Councilor.

Other races to watch in the Oregon House include:

  • District 20 (West Salem, Monmouth, Independence), where first-term Democrat Paul Evans is seeking to hold on to a seat the Democrats wrested from Republican hands in the 2014 election. Evans will face Republican Laura Morett, whose participation in the CBS series Survivor is highlighted in her campaign biography.
  • District 26 (Wilsonville, Sherwood, Gaston), a seat being vacated by Republican John Davis, that includes three Republicans and two Democrats vying against each other in the May primary.  Republican candidates include John Boylston, Richard Vial, and embattled former Republican legislator Matt Wingard.


Senate Races: Fifteen of the 30 seats in the Senate are up for re-election in 2016, including seven seats currently held by Republicans and eight seats held by Democrats.  Three seats are open due to Senators choosing to retire, but only one of the open seats is contested in the May primary, and all three of the seats are currently uncontested in the November general election.  Open Senate seats include:

  • District 21 (Milwaukee, Portland), a seat being vacated by Diane Rosenbaum (D).  Three Democrats are vying in the primary to succeed Rosenbaum, including Rep. Kathleen Taylor, OSU alumna Kathleen O‘Brien, and John Sweeney.
  • District 22 (NE Portland), where Lew Frederick (D) faces no primary or general election opponents to succeed Sen. Chip Shields (D) who is retiring.
  • District 28 (Klamath Falls), where Doug Whitsett’s (R) last minute withdrawal from the race enabled a concurrent last-minute filing by Dennis Linthicum, a Klamath County Commissioner to run unopposed in the primary and general election contests.  Whitsett’s decision came as a surprise to Rep. Mike McLane (R) who could have filed for that seat.


For a review of the last minute filing process see and the reactions it has created, check the Bend Bulletin.