One of the quieter races this electoral season has been that of Oregon treasurer. Former Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler seems to be in a good place to keep the position, which he was appointed to last spring when Ben Westlund passed away.
However, one man continues a long crusade to bring attention to some issues and solutions that are commonly-overlooked.
Walt Brown – a retired Lake Oswego attorney, who represented the area in the state Senate from 1975 to 1987 and has made third party bids for attorney general, Congress and president- is making a go at the office that oversees the state’s finances, and is hoping to bring up several ideas (some of which he admits are outside the purview of the office he’s pursuing) that he says will improve Oregon’s economy.
Brown wants the creation of a state bank to get capital and lending flowing in the state, which will help combat Oregon’s chronically high unemployment rate. He said that a state bank would work with private banks to help co-invest and keep interest rates low.
He points to North Dakota, which has a state bank and a relatively healthy economy, as an example of how such an entity can be a stabilizing influence.
However, the idea faces one big hurdle: Oregon’s constitution prohibits the creation of a state bank.
“That would be a problem,” admits Brown. “But all problems that are legal can be solved simply by amending the constitution. Of course, you don’t want to amend the constitution in a stupid way, which we’ve done from time to time.”
Health care reform
Brown said that the cost of providing health insurance to employees is hurting businesses, and the health care cost to state workers is also hurting Oregon’s finances.
He has been a longtime advocate for single-payer health insurance, which he said will be good for the state and good for business by shifting the cost of increasingly expensive health insurance premiums.
“The state could really save money if they set up their own health insurance,” he said.
Brown argues that Washington state is faring better economically because businesses have fewer costs under publicly-owned utilities, unlike much of Oregon, which he hopes to change.
Invest in Oregon
Brown said that if elected treasurer he would stop directing the state’s investments outside of Oregon, even if they bring in a lower return, a stance that he said distinguishes him from Wheeler. He would also push to have every layer of state and local government buy locally.
“There’s a multiplier effect of increasing jobs,” said Brown of his approach.
Investing money back into the state’s economy will pay off in the long run, he said.