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MailTribune.com
  • Shift in the win

    GOP losses across state strip Richardson of power-sharing position
  • State Rep. Dennis Richardson won his re-election bid Tuesday night but lost his powerful role crafting Oregon's biennial budget.
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  • State Rep. Dennis Richardson won his re-election bid Tuesday night but lost his powerful role crafting Oregon's biennial budget.
    A Democratic gain of four seats in the election pushed Republicans into the minority in the Oregon House, meaning the Central Point Republican will no longer be the co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.
    "It's not easy going back into the minority," Richardson said. "We were heading down a good path."
    Richardson worked with two Democrats, Rep. Peter Buckley of Ashland and Sen. Richard Devlin of Tualatin, in a unique power-sharing arrangement because the Oregon House was evenly split with 30 Republicans and 30 Democrats.
    The arrangement helped the Legislature put together a bipartisan budget, with Buckley and Richardson reaching agreement over difficult issues.
    "I didn't get all I wanted, and he didn't get all he wanted," Richardson said.
    In his co-chairman role, Richardson debated budget issues with Buckley and Devlin, and then worked with his Republican caucus to hammer out budget deals.
    Richardson has offered to continue his role in putting the next biennial budget together even though his party is in the minority.
    Buckley said he expects to be renamed co-chairman of Ways and Means and will ask Rep. Tina Kotek, a Portland Democrat who is expected to become House speaker, whether Richardson can play a part in the budget process.
    "I plan to work with Dennis to be able to have budgets that have strong bipartisan support," Buckley said.
    However, Richardson will not play as major a role in the budget discussions as before, he said.
    Buckley said Richardson would not be involved in every discussion of the budget-writing committee because that is what happens when one party holds the majority. Democrats will now hold both houses in the Legislature and the governor's office, allowing them to push ahead with their priorities.
    "At some point, the party has the responsibility to put forward an agenda, and the voters will hold us accountable for it," he said.
    However, he said, Richardson would be called in to discuss some issues where it could prove difficult to garner bipartisan support.
    In general, Buckley said, both sides agree on 95 percent of issues.
    One area of strong disagreement is over funding a program that offers temporary aid for needy families.
    "Our caucus believes these types of programs are essential," Buckley said.
    Buckley said Democrats have named Republicans in two co-chair positions in the Senate, which has been controlled by Democrats.
    In 2005, Buckley noted, Republicans, who were then in charge, didn't give Democrats any leadership roles in committees.
    Buckley said he thinks reaching bipartisan consensus will be important going forward, particularly working closely with Richardson.
    "He's one of the ranking members of his caucus," he said.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.
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