The Simplifier: Allen Alley, Republican

Allen Alley, 55, cofounded Pixelworks and has worked in the upper management of InFocus Corporation and as an engineer at Boeing Company and Ford Motor Company. From 2007 to 2008, he served under Governor Ted Kulongoski as the deputy chief of staff for energy, transportation, and economic development.

Peppler: You served a year in the Kulongoski administration, but otherwise you really don’t have a lot of government experience.

There was student council. It doesn’t show up on the résumé, but I want you to know about it.

Peppler: Tell us why you are running and why you think you’re qualified.

In my year in the Kulongoski administration, I saw that somebody with a little business background could have a profoundly positive effect, including somebody who is a Republican working in a Democratic administration. We can all feel it: the economy is having difficulty keeping up with the commitments we’ve made to our government. For the past 25 years, all I’ve done is identify markets, bring capital and people together, and build companies. On the economic side, that’s what we need. On the operating side, we need somebody to run government like a business.

Peppler: We’re one of 14 states where public employees pay nothing toward their health care costs. We’ve got a looming crisis around their retirement fund. What’s your plan?

In the retirement system, the actuarial analysis that’s been done is based on doubling the size of our payroll over the next 15 years. Why don’t we not double the payroll? I would invest in computer systems, software, and training so that public employees can be more productive.

Peppler: We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. What’s your economic development plan?

When I worked in the governor’s office, my observation was that economic development consisted of finding companies that typically weren’t here and then, to be blunt, stuffing money in their pockets until they showed up. I would focus on the people already here and ask, “What do we need to do to make our business environment better for you?” We have the perfect tax structure for Democrats and Republicans to work together because it’s all based on jobs. But we can’t figure it out.

Wulff: Do you have a fully articulated plan for K–12 education?

I haven’t rolled it out yet. I’m sure I’ve visited more schools than all the other candidates combined. My observation is, we’re pouring more and more money in the top, and it’s not getting into the classroom. I’m seeing great innovation at the local level that I would like to encourage.

Peppler: Where are you on kicker reform, sales tax, and rolling back Measures 66 and 67?

With kicker reform, the only thing I would do is take the 0 to 2 percent that is rolled forward into the budget and spent, and put it in a rainy day fund. If we didn’t have the kicker, we’d be $1.2 billion deeper in the hole than we already are, because we would have spent it. And we’d spend it in a capricious manner because the money comes in at the end of the biennium. A sales tax? That’s an intellectual discussion. I’ve lived in many states that have all taxes. They think their tax system is broken as well. We need stability in savings. I don’t think the citizens will sign up for tax reform. I think we can accomplish the same thing with stability funds.

Forbes: How would you reorganize the state government’s departments? Would you get rid of people?

There is a state comptroller. I called him one day and he said, “How did you find me?” I would move some of the comptroller functions out of the Department of Administrative Services and plug them in more directly to the governor’s office. You can’t revamp budgets and accountability and how we report them if the comptroller is buried in administrative services.

Wulff: You’ve said that the 12 states where the federal government owns more than 30 percent of the public land should examine their rights under contracts and treaties to increase extraction of natural resources. That, of course, strikes fear in the hearts of tree huggers. Should it?

What I mean is those 12 states [one of which is Oregon] have a duty to their citizens to check all those things. What are the terms and conditions? Do you know how much federal land there is in Texas or Indiana? Almost none. On 99 percent of the land in Indiana, the economic benefits accrue to the citizens of Indiana. Same thing in Texas. Here, 53 percent of the state is appropriated by the federal government. As a state, we’ll make better decisions about our land than the federal government will.

Peppler: What does Oregon look like after four years of an Allen Alley administration?

We have bottom-up, transparent budgets in each of our agencies. You have boards and commissions in place that are actually looking at the budget process. We’ve got an environment in place where small businesses are saying, “You know what? The needle moved.” You’ve got environmental groups and timber and miners working together to create economic opportunities that are in harmony with the ethos of the place. Because, guess what—those things we want, China and India want, too.

For Allen Alley’s views on the Business Energy Tax Credit, public employee unions, and helping small businesses, check out the full transcript including a downloadable audio recording.