In March, Gov. John Kitzhaber and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) celebrated the passage of House Bill 2800, which provided $450 million for what was then the $3.4 billion Columbia River Crossing project.
The pair had convinced skeptical lawmakers to support the bill by including conditions for the expenditure of Oregon's $450 million—most notably, the condition or "trigger" that Washington match Oregon's contribution.
Here's what the bill said:
The Department of Transportation may not request and the State Treasurer may not issue any bond to finance the Interstate 5 bridge replacement project unless:
(a) No later than September 30, 2013, the State of Washington has appropriated, authorized or committed sufficient funds
In a March 13 press conference, Kitzhaber referred to the safeguards in the bill, saying "this is prudently conditioned upon the state of Washington making their allocation to the project."
Speaking after Kitzhaber, Kotek also referred to the "triggers and strong financial oversight in the bill."
But as a memo (PDF) from Kotek's staff WW obtained today shows, Kitzhaber and Kotek continue to move the project forward even though the most important condition in the bill—Washington's contribution—has not been met.
Kotek circulated a memo to House Democrats during the current interim legislative session that makes a mockery of the safeguards many lawmakers thought were protecting Oregon taxpayers.
Salem observers expect the special legislative session the governor tentatively called for Sept. 30 to address cuts to the Public Employee Retirement System and possible tax increases. But Kotek's memo says the session is also likely to address reviving the CRC:
If the Treasurer's review finds that the Oregon-led project is financially feasible and provides the necessary safeguards for the State and Oregon taxpayers, the Governor is likely to ask the presiding officers to take up the [CRC] issue during the potential special session tentatively slated for September 30," the memo says.
Having one decision-making authority will streamline project management and increase efficiency. ODOT has developed a strong track record working with public and private partners to complete projects on time and on budget.
"To pay for the $140 million adjustments to the SR 14 interchange, the tolling period would ned to be extended, possibly for 7-8 years," the memo says.Jared Mason-Gere, a spokesman for Kotek says the memo was meant to bring lawmakers up to speed on what's happened on the CRC since they adjourned in early July.