Gov. Kate Brown is getting some high-level pressure on her proposed line-item veto of a $2 million appropriation for a project on Capitol Highway in Southwest Portland.
On Tuesday, Brown explained she planned to nix the expenditure because it had gotten different consideration from other transportation projects.
"The SW Capitol Highway project is not included in the package that was negotiated in a bipartisan and careful manner," Brown said in an Aug. 8 notice of intent to veto that appropriation and other bills. "It should receive the same vetting process as other transportation projects and be evaluated on its own merits in future legislative sessions."
Bike Portland reported that Brown's veto upset neighborhood activists who had long worked to make the project happen.
And now a powerful voice long associated with the proposed Capitol Highway project is weighing in.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer left the Portland city Council in 1995, but the project, first proposed when he served as the city's transportation commissioner, remains close to his heart.
Here's the letter he sent to Brown.
“I am writing regarding your stated intention to veto Section 83 of House Bill 5006, providing $2,050,857 for City of Portland SW Capitol Highway safety improvements. Your veto would be unprecedented in undermining more than two decades of planning and work on this much-needed project, continuing to put in jeopardy the safety and accessibility of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists on SW Capitol Highway,” Blumenauer wrote in an Aug. 10 letter to Brown. “While you can give accolades to the overall transportation package that was passed during the legislative session, the suggestion that the SW Capitol Highway has not been appropriately vetted or carefully considered is completely false. The Portland City Council adopted the Capitol Highway Improvement Plan in 1996 after years of neighborhood advocacy and community involvement. The City was finally able to secure funding of $8 million for the project in 2016 after voters approved the Fixing Our Streets funding program. The project’s completion hinges on the State of Oregon’s investment of $2 million. This project was carefully vetted and considered on its own merits by both chambers of the legislature. To imply otherwise is misguided and wrong. I urge you in the strongest terms possible to prioritize the safety in the SW Capitol Highway corridor and rescind your veto threat for Section 83 of House Bill 5006.”
Blumenauer, now in his 11th term representing Oregon's third congressional district, is one of Congress' leading transportation-funding advocates, and his position on the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee points to his influence in Washington.
For her part, Brown, who is up for re-election next year, spent a lot of political capital pushing through a $5.3 billion transportation funding package in the recently completed legislative session.
Getting that bill passed required saying "no" to dozens of lawmakers' pet projects around the state, and so it will be difficult for her now to rescind her proposed veto. Brown has until Monday, under the Oregon constitution, to finalize the proposed vetoes she announced Aug. 8. Her spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Blumenauer's letter.