Scott, Caudle fight for OC seat in the legislature
Representing Oregon City, Canby and Barlow, Oregon's 39th House District is currently served by Republican Wayne Scott. His challenger in the Nov. 7 election is Democrat Mike Caudle.
'I hope that this race is about leadership and the things I have been able to accomplish during my time in the legislature,' said incumbent Wayne Scott, who is seeking his third term in the statehouse.
Despite his brief tenure, Scott was chosen by his fellow Republicans to serve as house majority leader.
'As far as I know, I was the first freshman elected to the post of majority leader in Oregon history,' he said. 'We have a lot of good people down there, so I don't like to talk about myself too much, but hopefully that's an example of the type of leadership that I can provide.'
Among his accomplishments, Scott cited the overhaul of the Public Employees' Retirement System.
'In my first session, we did PERS reform,' he said. 'We didn't get it fixed completely, but we were able to make some great progress, at least. Based on the things we were able to accomplish, the unfunded liability went from something like $23 billion to virtually zero.'
Looking ahead, Scott cited education as a critical issue for the upcoming legislative session.
'I think education is one of, if not the most, important things we can do for our children, our future, and for the wellbeing of the whole population of Oregon,' he said. 'I'd like to find a sustainable way to fund education. We have always battled it out in the legislature about how much education is going to get.
'Instead of that, I'd rather have a routine funding system that is stable and predictable, so that schools can plan out their budgets well in advance.'
One specific proposal that surfaced during the previous session would dedicate a fixed amount of the state's personal income tax to education - 51 percent, according to Scott.
'Had it passed, that would have been a slight increase over the budget we actually got through in the last biennium,' he said. 'This year, it would have pushed the education budget up to $6.1 billion.'
Scott also called for increased funding of the state police.
'I'd like to get to the point where we have 24-7 coverage, at least on our major highways throughout the state,' he said. 'As I understand it, the state police took a big hit in the '01 budget cycle, when they were taken off the road tax money, but there have been steady increases since then - we've restored what was taken away. In the last biennium, we added back 15 patrol officers, plus 18 detectives and forensics people.
'As I understand it, one of the problems we are confronting right now is training people and getting them ready. We have unfilled positions right now that are authorized and paid for, but nobody is in there.'
He also addressed a scandal that has attached itself to his campaign in recent weeks, centered around a trip he took to Hawaii, paid for by the state's beer and wine distributors. Scott did not report the trip, as is required when gifts from lobbyists exceed a $144 limit.
'Basically, what happened was I was invited to go to Hawaii to get in front of a bunch of executives to raise money,' he said. 'I gave a two-and-a-half hour presentation, and we discussed issues that affect their industry. Two businesses that are located in my district were in attendance - they were the ones who invited me.
'I took the trip at their request, and I was told by them that it was not a reportable expense, but I made a mistake - I didn't verify that with the ethics committee.'
Scott explained that when he recognized his error, he immediately sent in a revised report.
'I believed what they told me. I don't want to cover it up,' he said.
Democratic challenger Mike Caudle has organized his campaign around three broad themes, each encompassing a number of specific proposals.
'We need to put kids first, protect and support Oregon families and make Salem smarter and more accountable,' he said.
Launching immediately into a discussion of his first theme, Caudle spoke first about education.
'There are lots of problems with education: class sizes are too big and we keep shortening the school year,' he said. 'I think one additional problem that goes beyond the schools is access to healthcare. If a kid doesn't have health insurance, they are more likely to get sick, they are going to stay sick longer, and they are going to miss more school.'
To fund improvements in Oregon's education system, Caudle proposed retaining the corporate tax refund known as the 'corporate kicker' and also raising the minimum tax paid by companies doing business in the state.
'Right now, the minimum tax that corporations pay is $10,' he said. 'These aren't mom-and-pop local businesses, these are big companies and I think increasing that minimum tax rate would help bolster education. There are hundreds of corporations that only pay that $10 minimum - I think it should be more like $125 to $150.
'But that only solves part of the problem. I believe that too much of the burden rests on our working families. I think we need to balance the burden by getting corporations to pay their fair share.'
While advocating for a tax increase on corporations, he also suggested targeted tax breaks for companies working in fields that have social benefits, such as renewable energy.
'I think the payoff would exceed the costs on projects like that,' he said.
Under the rubric of protecting Oregon families, he called for increasing the number of state police.
'We don't have nearly enough troopers - there are half as many state troopers today as there were when I was born,' said Caudle. 'I talked to District Attorney John Foote, and he told me that we making progress on meth production, so now the problem is trafficking - drugs coming into our area on I-5 and I-205. We need more troopers on the road battling that.'
Caudle also called for strict regulation of payday loan companies, predicting that most of them would sidestep a law approved by the 2005 legislature that goes into effect this year.
'They passed a solid law, but it only covers one type of charter - basically a license,' he said. 'Now, these businesses have 18 months to re-organize, to get a new charter, so that when the law finally goes into effect, they will be able to charge about the same rates they are charging right now.
'I want a comprehensive bill that brings down the interest that they can charge significantly, maybe 36 percent instead of 521 percent.'
As part of his plan to make the state capitol more accountable, Caudle suggested new limits on lobbyists.
'We have what I believe is a serious problem with money and influence,' he said. 'Special interests have too much control over our legislative process.'
Caudle advocated new limits, including a ban on travel paid for by lobbyists, a limit of $100 for each individual gift or meal provided to a legislator, and $300 overall limit per year. He would also prohibit retired legislators from lobbying their former colleagues for two years.
'We have to do something to check the amount of money that is going into campaigns,' said Caudle. 'Some candidates are spending over $1 million for a job that pays $24,000 a year, every other year. That means somebody is having a lot of influence on the process.'