As we prepare for the 2009 Legislative session, Oregon has a host of problems to solve. Like the rest of the country, we've been hammered by the national recession and face an uncertain economic future. To get out of this mess, it's going to take all of us working together - urban and rural, Democrat and Republican; young and old, and even business and labor leaders.
That's why it was so disappointing to see the Wallowa County Chieftain's editorial last week, accusing me and House Democrats of being in the pocket of special interest groups and engaging in the same tired, old rhetoric that seeks to divide instead of unite our state.
As the incoming speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, I've worked hard to make myself accessible to editorial writers and reporters across our state. But the Chieftain never even tried to get my side of the story before labeling me as a "too" liberal Democrat in the pocket of unions.
It's a label that doesn't stick if you look at my record as a legislator, and at the accomplishments of the 2007 and 2008 legislative sessions that benefit Eastern Oregon.
When voters put Democrats in control of the Oregon House in 2007, we reversed years of serious declines in areas we believe are important to all Oregonians.
? We invested in Head Start and K-12 schools at the highest level ever, and gave new opportunities for young Oregonians to attend all of our community colleges and universities.
? We helped family farmers and ranchers by cutting the estate tax on their property when it is time to pass their land and operations on to their children.
? We passed a water storage plan that will ensure farmers and ranchers have more adequate water supplies for decades to come.
? We approved a plan to finally allow some use of hounds to hunt cougars.
? We added 139 state troopers back to our highways all over Oregon, reversing years of cuts to the Oregon State Police.
? We created Oregon's first-ever Rainy Day Fund and we set aside almost one million dollars in reserves to protect critical services during future recessions, reversing the prior pattern of spending every dime every session.
It's easy to play the blame game; to accuse the governor, myself or someone else of causing all of our woes. But there is simply too much at stake for our state to engage in the same kind of divisive politics that got us into this mess in the first place.
All of us in Oregon are going to have to share in the sacrifices necessary to get through this recession. And all of us should strive to avoid the name calling and political rhetoric that characterized the campaign season in Oregon and across the nation.
I have appointed Eastern Oregon's Republican Representatives - Cliff Bentz, John Huffman, Bob Jenson, and Greg Smith - to key positions on House committees. In fact, I appointed Rep. Jenson to chair the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee, a key post for rural Oregon. Our two new Democratic representatives from east of the Cascades - Judy Stiegler and Suzanne VanOrman - are already capably representing the interests of rural Oregon within the House Democratic Caucus.
And I, as speaker, will pledge to you fairness, openness and the willingness to listen to your concerns. All I ask in return is the same fairness, and the same opportunity to make my case to the Chieftain and the citizens of Wallowa County.
We may disagree on issues, but you will never know how I stand just from listening only to political opponents with a vested interest in making us look bad ... or from reading an isolated quote in a newspaper ... or from holding on to old and tired notions that don't move us toward solving our budget crisis and the policy challenges that face Oregon.
Disagree with me all you like, but if you want to know where I stand on the issues, all you have to do is ask.
State Rep. Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County) is the speaker-designee for the Oregon House of Representatives.