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364 Chapter 18 Neil and Barbara, Vera and John, 1987-94 Democrat Neil Goldschmidt became Oregon’s 33rd governor on January 12, 1987. The 46-year-old Goldschmidt’s close election victory in November generated widespread interest and excitement. In his meteoric political career, Neil Goldschmidt had left his imprint everywhere he’d been. Known by his supporters as “the boy wonder,” or simply as “Neil,” he was barely 30 when he was elected to the Portland City Council and became mayor at 32. Under Mayor Goldschmidt, Portland built a bus-transit mall in downtown, turning the central business district into a pedestrian-friendly haven; Portland’s Tri-Met transit system reached far into the suburbs, pulling the metropolitan area together into a cohesive mass transit system. Goldschmidt joined Gov. Bob Straub in blocking the construction of a proposed Mount Hood freeway, which would have sliced through the heart of Southeast Portland neighborhoods. Goldschmidt believed that a public transit system of buses and light rail would better serve the needs of metropolitan Portland in the long run. Many Oregonians saw Goldschmidt as a man of vision, passion, and immense ambition, a man who was going places. Goldschmidt got things done. “[He] was a Democratic Tom McCall, an electric personality, who really got people excited; people believed in him.”1 Charismatic, telegenic, and an expert at attracting media attention, Neil Goldschmidt was admired by friend and foe alike. His style was intense, prodding , and provocative. He had ideas by the truckload. His energy was legendary. “He has two speeds, full-speed and crash.”2 A classic workaholic, Goldschmidt drove himself hard and expected the same from those who worked for him. Back on Track Goldschmidt took office in 1987, when the state’s economy was picking up. Barbara Roberts (who would later become governor herself) commented: “Neil gave people hope and it was critical to the turnaround. … The Oregon Comeback happened because people believed again.”3 Goldschmidt exuded Neil and Barbara, Vera and John, 1987-94 365 confidence and optimism in his new job as governor. “His first months were a whirlwind of change. Goldschmidt handed the Legislature a sixty-day agenda of bills he wanted passed, reorganized several state agencies, and persuaded voters to pass a measure to keep schools from closing.”4 Oregon’s rebounding economy produced a projected state budget surplus of $286 million in 1987. State economists predicted an even bigger surplus in 1987-89. Goldschmidt was lucky: there would be money for long-neglected state programs. Republican Gov. Victor Atiyeh and four legislatures had had to slash budgets so severely that many state programs were harmed. Goldschmidt chose corrections, higher education, and economic development (particularly in rural Oregon) as priority programs for budget surplus money. Goldschmidt had a Democratic legislature to work with. Vera Katz returned for a second term as speaker of the House as did John Kitzhaber, president of the Senate. Katz was a close friend and longtime political ally of Neil Goldschmidt. They had worked together on Portland city projects and their political philosophies were similar. With Katz in the speaker’s office, Governor Goldschmidt believed the Oregon House would welcome his proposals. It was expected that Senate President Kitzhaber would follow suit, making Goldschmidt’s term a productive one. Oregon’s 66th Legislature The Legislature of 1987 lasted 168 days, January 12-June 28. A record 2,572 bills were introduced. Legislators passed 928 bills, 15 of which Governor Goldschmidt vetoed. There were 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans in the Senate, while the House continued to teeter on the sharp edge of a razor-thin Democrat majority of 31-29. Six women served in the Senate (the same number as in 1985) and 10 in the House. “Budget repair” was Goldschmidt’s primary goal in 1987.5 Besides funneling more money into education, corrections, and economic development, the governor wanted to divert millions of dollars of new state lottery revenues to help rural Oregon grow its local economies. Goldschmidt believed that people should be empowered at the grassroots level to involve themselves with state officials to decide the best use of lottery dollars for economic development.6 Another Goldschmidt priority was reforming Oregon’s Workers’ Compensation system. The issue of employer liability warranted attention and it would take Goldschmidt three years to achieve this reform. From the moment Neil Goldschmidt took office he took charge. “He had ideas, he had a program—one which moved the state forward. The 366 chapter 18...


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