Obama Looking at Kitzhaber for Cabinet Post?

Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says he'd be interested in a Cabinet post in the Obama administration, but so far the Obama transition team hasn't

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Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says he'd be interested in a Cabinet post in the Obama administration, but so far the Obama transition team hasn't contacted him about one, at least publicly.

The Associated Press reported last week that Kitzhaber "has been mentioned as a possible secretary for either of two departments: Health and Human Services or Interior."

Kitzhaber, an avid fisherman and a former emergency room physician, has an intense interest in both the environment and health care reform. Putting together an Oregon salmon recovery plan and expanding the Oregon Health Plan were two of his biggest achievements in the Legislature and as governor, and he has continued to push for national health care reform through his Archimedes Project.

Kitzhaber told The AP he hasn't been contacted by Obama's transition team but would be open to taking either job if it was offered.


Columnist Carol McAlice Curry of the Salem Statesman-Journal wrote that Kitz could do more for the country in the HHS position:

"We know you [Obama] have your own health-care plan, but Kitzhaber could help you make it better. During his gubernatorial tenure, Kitzhaber oversaw expansion of the Oregon Health Plan, which reduced the number of uninsured Oregon children from 21 percent to 8 percent. He also introduced the Oregon's Children's Plan to identify and assist at-risk children and families in the state, and focus resources on prevention and treatment instead of expensive and episodic after-the-crisis intervention."

The Eye is inclined to agree with Curry. Kitzhaber would be a good choice for either post, but his background as a doctor, a lawmaker, a governor and a crusader for health care would make him outstanding as head of HHS.

Mike Daly: Why I Lost

In our wanderings around town last week The Eye ran into soon-to-be-former Deschutes County Commissioner Mike Daly, who offered some thoughts on why he lost to Democrat Alan Unger.

One big reason, he said, was that Deschutes Democrats blew the county's Republicans out of the water when it came to signing up new voters: "The Democrats registered 5,000 new voters [this year] while the number of Republican registered voters actually dropped."

"The demographics around here are really changing," he added. (The Eye suspects the powerful appeal of Barack Obama and the total lack of appeal of the Republican brand this year also played into it.)

Another reason for his loss, Daly said, was resistance in the LaPine area to the county's plan to require septic system upgrades to keep nitrates out of the local groundwater. "They hate all of us down there," he said - meaning himself and fellow Commissioners Dennis Luke and Tammy Melton. Unfortunately for him, Daly was the only one running this year.

Daly, 66, was first elected to the commission in 2000. He said he has no further political ambitions and is looking forward to kicking back in retirement. "I think it's about time," he said.

Wells Gets a Gold Mine, Oregon Gets the Shaft

While the eyes of Congress and the public were focused on the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in September, the Bush administration slipped through a tax break for banks that could cost the federal treasury $140 billion - and cost the state of Oregon a bundle too.

As succinctly explained by Citizens for Tax Justice: "Generally, corporations that report tax losses in a given year are allowed to apply these losses against profits in future years. But this ability to 'carry over' losses from one year to reduce taxes in future years has limits. For example, when one company buys another company that has tax losses, the law prevents the acquiring company from using the purchased company's tax losses. There's a very sensible reason for this rule: to ensure that companies don't purchase other companies simply as a tax dodge.

"But a little-noticed September IRS administrative ruling creates a specific, temporary exemption from this rule for banks acquiring other banks whose tax losses are attributable to bad loans. The rule is apparently retroactive."

The biggest winner under the rule change will be Wells Fargo, "which by one estimate will see a federal tax cut of $19 billion from its purchase of Wachovia."

Why will this hurt Oregon and other states where Wells Fargo does business?

"Because states with corporate income taxes almost universally base their corporate taxes on federal rules, federal tax cuts for corporations generally result in state tax cuts as well," Citizens for Tax Justice explains. "When affected states have rules making it difficult to enact tax increases ... state governments find themselves practically unable to avoid costly corporate tax cuts they never wanted."

How much Oregon stands to lose hasn't been worked out yet.

Tip of the hat to Chuck Sheketoff on the BlueOregon blog for pointing this angle out.

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