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Gov. Kate Brown Rescinds Announced Veto of Capitol Highway Project

Lawmakers, Portland City Council and Congressman Earl Blumenauer pushed back hard in support of Portland street project.

Gov. Kate Brown today abandoned two controversial vetoes she announced last week.

The proposed veto that got the most attention was the governor's line item rejection of a proposed $2.05 million expenditure on safety improvements on Capitol Highway in Southwest Portland.

In announcing her proposed vetoes Aug. 8, Brown expressed displeasure that the project got slipped into the session-ending "go-home bill" which is a mish-mash of one-off expenditures, rather being included in the $5.3 billion transportation package on which she and several lawmakers spent considerable political capital. (By law, the governor must give lawmakers notice of five working days before vetoing a bill.)

After Brown said she'd kill the Capitol Highway expenditure, Portland city councilors, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who worked on the project 20 years ago as a Portland city commissioner and state Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) all pushed back hard against the governor.

Today, she reiterated her displeasure with the expenditure—which would have used Lottery-backed bonds—but conceded she was giving in to the pressure.

"In the past week, I've received significant input from a wide range of constituencies since providing the veto notice," Brown wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. "It's clear that the City of Portland SW Capitol Highway Safety Improvements project is a good project and should be funded. In the interest of all who have worked so hard on this project, I will not veto this item."

"However, I continue to believe that lottery dollars should be used only as a last resort on road projects, so in the interest of clearly stating my position for the future, I hereby serve notice of potential veto on all future road projects funded with general or lottery funds."

Blumenauer applauded that decision.

"I'm glad that Governor Brown listened to the facts on the ground and decided not to follow through on her threats to veto this much-needed funding. The safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists on SW Capitol Highway would have been in jeopardy if she had decided to veto," he said in a statement. "I am grateful for the civic leaders, community members, and all who spoke in support of this project. Their efforts made the difference."

Brown also today announced she would reverse her proposed veto of an expenditure in the same bill of $1 million on the Holly Theatre in Medford.

That decision preserves one of the three items in House Bill 5006 that were specifically earmarked for the district of state Rep. Sal Esquivel (R-Medford) in exchange for Esquivel's providing the crucial 36th vote (and the only Republican vote) to pass a $670 million hospital tax increase.

After voting for the tax hike, Esquivel subsequently joined other Republicans in referring that tax increase to voters. For that decision, Brown is punishing him—just not as much as originally announced.

The governor said today that she'll still veto a $1.9 million irrigation project and the expenditure of $750,000 on a baseball field but will allow the expenditure of  $1 million on the the Holly Theatre in Medford.

"I'm not a fan of this type of explicit horsetrading on unrelated legislation," Brown wrote. "But having served in the Legislature, I understand that political compromise is often necessary."