Governors of Oregon and Washington don't even plan to talk about replacing the aging bridge between the two states.
Although the 2017 Washington Legislature began on Monday and Oregon lawmakers are scheduled to convene in Salem on Feb. 1, one mutual project not on either agenda is replacing the Interstate 5 bridge between the two states. In fact, media representatives for the governors in both states recently told KOIN 6 News they don't even plan to discuss it.
A 2016 study by the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council found commute times between SR-500 and I-5 in Washington and Jantzen Beach in Oregon increased nearly 300 percent over the previous five years. Despite that, the last effort to replace the aging span, the Columbia River Crossing, died in 2014 amid partisan bickering after consuming more than $150 million in planning and engineering funds.
According to the station's report, the current bridge costs $2.2 million a year to maintain. Within the next decade, it will require a new axle pulley that will cost up to $12 million.
The Columbia River Crossing would have cost around $3 billion.
Why pay legislators more?
Oregon legislators are currently paid less than the national average for state lawmakers. But would paying them more encourage a wider range of people to run, as some reformers argue? Not according to a recent Duke University study titled, "Does Paying Politicians More Promote Economic Diversity in Legislatures?"
The study by professor Eric Hansen was published in American Political Science Review on Dec. 28. It says previous research has shown white-collar professionals are over-represented in government office relative to the general population. But, the study found, higher salaries won't tempt more blue-collar workers to run because of the amount of time and high cost it takes to campaign.
Oregon legislators are paid $23,568 a year, plus $140 a day during sessions. New Mexico pays only $163 a day during sessions with no salary. On the other end of the spectrum, California, New York and Michigan pay more than $75,000 a year, plus daily per-diem payments during sessions.
City Club gets a jumpstart on PPS
The City Club of Portland announced Dec. 22 that it would be taking applications for a research committee into Portland Public Schools' planned May construction bond measure. There's just one problem: They don't have anything to study yet.
While the district and school board are working on a $750 million bond proposal, it's been slow going as they try to assess what it will take to address the myriad environmental hazards in schools. PPS itself sent out letters Dec. 28 asking people to join its bond stakeholder advisory committee — which met for the first time last Friday. The committee will shape four options for rebuilding or renovating three high schools and possibly a middle school.
"We hope to launch the committee in January to allow as much time as possible for the committee to complete its research by April," the City Club said in its letter to members. The applications closed Jan. 4.