The Futurist: Bill Bradbury, Democrat

A Chicago native and a lifelong environmentalist, Bill Bradbury, 61, served as Oregon’s Secretary of State from 1999 to 2009 and in the Oregon legislature from 1980 to 1995.

Peppler: Obviously, what’s on Oregonian’s minds are jobs. What’s your plan to create more of them?

Priority number one has to be jobs, jobs, jobs. At the center of my eight-point jobs plan is the “Bank of Oregon,” which would basically make use of the incredible resources the people of Oregon have through the paying of their taxes. Right now the state treasury is paying out $1 billion a quarter, which goes to various banks, both community banks and some of the very large Wall Street banks that have caused so much controversy lately. That capital can be put to work to increase lending to small businesses.

Chambers: How are you going to keep businesses from leaving Oregon because of Measures 66 and 67? Some are already planning to.

We need to repeal 66 and 67. That’s a huge challenge given the fiscal situation. But frankly, I think 9 percent is a pretty high income tax. Let me be clear: I’m not proposing repeal. But I’d certainly look at it if we have serious impacts from the increase. I don’t think it’s sustainable.

Peppler: Where do you stand on kicker reform?

I’m a strong advocate of asking the voters whether the kicker should be used for a rainy day fund. I believe it should be.

Peppler: How do you avoid being a kickee?

By not having it on the ballot in 2010. The legislative leadership clearly decided it did not want to have kicker reform on the ballot at the same time it’s trying to maintain a Democratic majority. I get that. But that’s not to say it isn’t something that could be brought up very quickly after the election. It’s the first step to putting our fiscal house in order.

Peppler: The Oregon business community agreed to support Measures 66 and 67 as a temporary business tax and to help fund the campaign for kicker reform. Unfortunately, the legislature’s majority rejected the deal out of hand.

When you have the business community coming to the legislature saying, “We’re willing to pay our fair share,” my advice would be go for it: come out with a remarkable coalition. That’s the role of the governor.

Peppler: What’s the appropriate balance between energy and scenic values?

The Energy Facility Siting Council really weighs those kinds of things. The biggest issue with wind is siting [the turbines] in a migratory path for birds. I personally believe that seeing a wind farm is actually a piece of natural beauty. I like to watch them turn.

Wulff: Do you think there were missed opportunities in the Kulongoski administration?

I’m sure there were. But if you look at Kulongoski’s efforts in green building and renewable energy, he gets an A+. He very clearly worked with the legislature. The area no one has touched since Barbara Roberts is adequate funding for education. In 1977, the average tuition for community colleges was $387 a year. In 2007, it was $3,870 a year—10 times as high. Only about 8 percent of the entire higher-ed system’s budget is paid out of the state’s general fund. Is that a public university? Eight percent?

Peppler: The three big universities have floated ideas of changing their governance. What do you think?

I’ve seen the proposals for a kind of public/private university. I don’t really like it very much. I really believe in public education. We need to look at the tax code. With a 5 percent reduction in tax credits and deductions, you’d get almost $2 billion in funding for education.

Forbes: Would you support using the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” as a model for education reform?

Those kinds of changes are great, but you’re not going to make the fundamental quality improvements in public education until we support it. We have a wonderful program called the Quality Education Model, and it’s updated every two years. It’s not a deluxe Cadillac, but it’s designed to provide students with the options they need to succeed in the modern world. We’re $2 billion short of implementing it. That’s the next governor’s challenge—to work with the legislature to adequately fund that program.

Peppler: We’re one of only 14 states whose employees don’t pay anything for health care. Just having them pay a small portion of what most private sector employees pay could save millions and millions of dollars.

I don’t think the way to solve the problem is to take away benefits from public employees. I think the way to do it is to lower the costs.

Peppler: How would the state look different after four years of Governor Bill Bradbury?

The state would be providing education from prekindergarten to grade 14. And we would be a very proud government that runs a public higher education system. And we would be developing a whole series of jobs, both farm jobs and food processing and energy production jobs. They would fit together to produce a sustainable vision for this state.

For Bill Bradbury’s views on the controversial Business Energy Tax Credit, public employee pensions, and Oregon’s red/blue, urban/rural divide, check out the full transcript including a downloadable audio recording.