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Governor dislikes budget

A three-day special session of the Oregon Legislature adjourned early Monday after rebalancing the state budget without new taxes.

The Republican-backed package uses one-time revenue sources and about $350 million in state agency cuts to make up the $715 million shortfall caused by the recession.

The rebalancing effort by the GOP was a slap in the face to Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, who vowed repeatedly that he would veto bills that include raids on the Common School Fund and the Education Trust Fund. The governor wanted to help fix the budget with increased taxes on cigarettes, beer and wine and by repealing an income tax break that has not yet gone into effect.

Perhaps sensing that he was not going to get what he wanted, Kitzhaber left the Capitol on Sunday evening while the Legislature was still in session.

If he vetoes any of the budget bills, he will again have to call lawmakers back into special session to correct the remaining deficit. The budget numbers could change again with a new fiscal forecast in March.

Gubernatorial debates set

The major candidates for governor have been invited to a new kind of political forum to be held around Oregon this spring.

The new format aims to provide more substance than the brief sound bites of contemporary politics. Instead, each candidate will be presented with a problem he or she might face as governor. Each will then have three hours, with staff, to come up with a solution.

'The traditional debates are not only painful to watch, they are usually irrelevant,' said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who Ñ along with former U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield Ñ is a major proponent of the new format.

Forums are scheduled for April 17 in Medford, with the topic natural resources; April 19 in Eugene on education; April 22-25 in Pendleton on rural health care; May 1 in Portland on transportation; and May 10 in Beaverton on the economy.

Partners in the project include Nike Inc.; the chambers of commerce in Pendleton and Medford; the city clubs of Salem, Eugene and Portland; the Portland Tribune; the Medford Mail Tribune; the Oregon Business Council; the Oregon Business Association; and the Oregon AFL-CIO.

Good government problem

Will the City Council play a game of political brinksmanship with the Good Government Act?

The initiative measure, which seeks to restructure the council, has qualified for the May election ballot. But the city attorney says it contains a number of inadvertent errors that could cause serious problems if it is approved by the voters.

Mayor Vera Katz has submitted a corrected version for the council to consider at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. But it does not yet have the votes to pass, meaning that Portlanders may have to choose between a flawed measure or nothing.

Chief petitioner Robert Ball thinks the council should approve the corrected version as a courtesy to the 40,000 voters who signed his initiative petitions.

Ball also notes that the council routinely revises its own ballot measures before sending them out for approval. For example, the council approved substitute versions of two measures headed for this year's ballots Ñ one to upgrade city parks, and the other to create a childhood investment fund.

'The council should approve the revised version of this measure, just like they do for their own,' Ball said.

LABOR

OHSU and nurses settle

The 8-week-old nurses strike at Oregon Health & Science University is over, and hundreds of nurses will stage a 'walk-in' at the hospital when the first group of striking nurses returns to work at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The strike ended late Sunday when striking nurses voted 736-118 to accept the university's offer of a 20.5 percent wage hike over three years. The university also agreed to come up with a more cost-effective health-insurance plan for the nurses.

Ken Fitzsimon of the Oregon Nurses Association said nurses are especially encouraged by OHSU's agreement to be accredited by the American Nurses Association, which should help attract and retain nurses to the hospital.

'We're excited that the strike is finally over and we can move on and repair some of the relationships that have been bruised during the strike,' said OHSU spokeswoman Christine Pashley.

She said about 374 of the 1,500 nurses who work for OHSU crossed picket lines. Facilitators will be on hand in all the units to help alleviate any tensions that might arise as striking nurses get back to work, she said.

Ñ Tribune staff