Democratic and Republican candidates for governor faced off Tuesday in the final debate to be televised statewide. With allegations of misleading ads flying, the two candidates took different approaches to almost every issue.
“We want prosperity for the people of this state; where we differ is how we’ll achieve that,” Democratic candidate Ted Kulongoski said.
Kulongoski reluctantly supports the proposed three-year income-tax increase on the ballot in January, seeing it as the only option other than cuts and borrowing. “You can’t go out and borrow for recurring operating costs,” he said.
“There is a fourth option,” Republican candidate Kevin Mannix said. “Elect me as governor.”
“Let’s talk about the $500 to $600 million in additional funds available, sitting in accounts right now,” Mannix said, who opposes any future tax increase and has pledged that he won’t sign any new tax legislation.
Kulongoski doubts the sincerity of that pledge. “The truth of it is that you can let a bill go into effect without signing it,” he said.
Kulongoski also asserted that Mannix voted for a sales tax twice during his tenure as a state representative. “I’ve never supported a sales tax,” he said.
Mannix said that he regretted voting to pass the decision of the sales-tax measure to the voters in 1993. “I said at the time, let the voters decide,” Mannix said. “I’m a populist.”
But now Mannix feels Kulongoski is using that vote unfairly against him. “Your tax dollars will not be increased while I’m governor,” Mannix said.
Closely linked to the budget issue is that of the Oregon Health Plan.
Mannix wants to institute a residency requirement and reform the program. “I believe in the Oregon Health Plan as a general concept,” said Mannix, “but the Oregon Health Plan has become dysfunctional in some ways by encouraging people to not work in order to receive health care.”
Kulongoski acknowledges there are problems with the Oregon Health Plan, but he sees it as a tool for providing health-care coverage for children. Kulongoski said he would see that “every child in this state has access to health care one way or another.”
Kulongoski asserted that he and Mannix are of separate minds on prescription drugs. “I believe that pharmaceutical companies must be held accountable and must tow the line,” said Kulongoski, who suggested Mannix was more sympathetic to drug companies’ wishes.
Mannix also wants to restructure K-12 education, making the certificates of initial and advanced mastery (CIM and CAM) optional for school districts. He would also like to stop mandating standardized testing.
Mannix’s stance on abortion came up, as well. Kulongoski accused him of changing his tune in the general election after running as a pro-life candidate in the Republican primary.
Mannix insisted that abortion is not one of the challenges facing Oregon’s next governor and that constitutional law grants a woman the right to have an abortion, though “parental notification is an appropriate issue of debate.”
The two candidates clashed on their stances on the Public Employee’s Retirement Plan (PERS). Mannix believes that the Legislature and the governor shouldn’t be eligible for the plan.
“I voted against the legislators joining PERS,” Kulongoski said.
The debate was held at the KGW studios in Portland and was co-sponsored by The Oregonian. PSU professor Chris Carrey was the timekeeper, and a number of his students attended the debate.