Oregon's Senate Republicans call for bipartisanship in letter to Democratic lawmakers

SALEM -- A group of Oregon Senate Republicans have sent a letter to Capitol leaders, calling on them to convene meetings for "constructive, bipartisan conversations" on issues facing the state. "On behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus, we wanted...

Oregon's Senate Republicans call for bipartisanship in letter to Democratic lawmakers

SALEM -- A group of Oregon Senate Republicans have sent a letter to Capitol leaders, calling on them to convene meetings for "constructive, bipartisan conversations" on issues facing the state.

"On behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus, we wanted to reiterate our interest and willingness to work with you to craft solutions for bold, decisive action on the most critical issues facing all Oregonians," the Senators wrote, adding that they will meet "any time and any place." 

In the letter, sent to Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, six Senate Republicans ask for meetings to hash out transportation upgrades and reform tax collection, state spending and the public pension system.

Some of those conversations have already started.

"We are less than one week into the 2017 session and are already having productive, bipartisan conversations about these issues and many more of the big challenges facing our state," Kotek said in a statement.

All committees are bipartisan, though controlled by Democrats, and Monday there were committee meetings on revenue bills and a transportation plan, along with a public meeting on pension reform. Courtney and Kotek also met privately with business and labor leaders last Friday to get them talking about revenue and spending reform. 

A spokesman for Courtney said that, after receiving the Republicans' letter, the Senate President's Office reached out to Senate Republican leadership to schedule regular meetings. Senate Republican Caucus spokesman Jonathan Lockwood said he had no knowledge of a meeting request, and called it "a distraction."

Kotek said there's much work to be done, and that she looks forward to working with lawmakers across the aisle. Democrats will also have to compromise because they lack the three-fifths majority required to pass tax increases without bipartisan support. So far, key Democrats have said little about what policy concessions they will make.

Lockwood said legislators are already considering some of the topics addressed in the Republicans' letter, but more needs to be done. 

"The bottom line is that we are willing to work together," Lockwood said. "We are calling on the leaders of both the Senate and House to work together with us." 

-- Gordon R. Friedman

gfriedman@oregonian.com; 503-221-8209

@gordonrfriedman

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