Familiar faces run for Governor – Kulongoski

    After spending four years in the governor’s office with many questioning his accomplishments, Governor Ted Kulongoski is working to appeal to his constituency with new education funding programs and tax increases.

    Kulongoski’s Education Enterprise program is a new program that he says would fund 61 percent of the state’s general fund toward public education. Every year, there would be a 10 percent guaranteed increase in the budget from the previous year.

    According to Jake Weigler, research director for Kulongoski’s campaign, this would mean an additional $50 million for state universities and community colleges next year. There is also the shared responsibility model, where financial assistance for higher education and community college students would increase by $80 million over the next two budgets.

    ”He’s really worked hard to represent students,” Weigler said. “His personal life has taught him the value of education.”

    Kulongoski supports tax raises. He has said that he will ask the 2007 legislative session to increase the cigarette tax by 84 cents per pack to pay for children’s healthcare. He would increase the corporate minimum tax of $10 to “an unspecified amount.”

    Another source of funding in 2007, if Kulongoski returns as governor, might come from kicker checks. The growth in Oregon’s economy has resulted in bigger kicker checks from federal taxes for citizens and corporations alike. Kulongoski has the option of appealing to the Legislature to keep the kicker checks from the tax returns and use them for government programs.

    Kulongoski endorsed a law that put new, stricter requirements on tailpipe emissions for cars, winning the endorsement of the League of Oregon Conservation Voters (OLCV). The OLCV website (www.olcv.org) asserted that Kulongoski is “the only candidate with a bold plan and a strong record of supporting significant efforts to clean our air, develop alternative energy sources, and combat global warming.”

    Basic Rights Oregon, an organization supporting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, has also endorsed Kulongoski. The governor has introduced anti-discrimination laws, and he requested the bill in the senate (SB 1000) that would have allowed civil unions for same-sex couples.

    Planned Parenthood of Oregon PAC supports Kulongoski for “his strong support for reproductive rights and lengthy record of protecting access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services.”

    He supported the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 and signed a letter stating that to further delay such research would be “unconscionable.” In July, the state passed a strict law making cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient of methamphetamine, prescription only.

    Born in Missouri, Kulongoski was raised in a Catholic boy’s home. He served in the marines, which also paid for his college. From there he became a labor lawyer, served in the House of Representatives, then the Oregon State Senate, and finally became attorney general in 1992. In 2002 he was elected governor.

    Kulongoski was sworn in January 13th 2003. Oregon in 2003 was a different state than it is today. The economy was in recession, and funding was so low that 90 Oregon school districts cut their school year short, some by weeks. Unemployment rates were high.

    That year there were five special sessions of the Oregon Legislature to balance the budget. During that time, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a number of bills and measures designed to pull Oregon out of the hole.

    A transportation plan was passed, creating almost 9,000 new jobs, at the same time creating incentives for businesses to move to Oregon. Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) was reformed. The Oregon Health Plan was rebuilt. Money was appropriated from lottery games to fund police.

    Senator Avel Gordly, who also teaches at PSU, supports Kulongoski. She commends his work bringing together Republicans and Democrats on issues, especially during the difficult 2003 legislative session.

    ”I appreciate his leadership,” she said.