Kitzhaber's push for special session well received by GOP leader

Kitzhaber's push for special session well received by GOP leader
Gov. John Kitzhaber talks to reporters at the state Capitol in Salem, Ore., on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Kitzhaber state budget talks have reached an impasse, and time is running out for Oregon lawmakers to decide whether they'll raise new tax revenue and cut deeper into public employee pensions. (AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The top Republican in the Oregon state House said Friday he was "encouraged" by a meeting with Gov. John Kitzhaber over the governor's push to round up support for a combination of pension cuts and tax increases.

The governor this week stepped up his push to secure support for a deal that he says would increase funding for schools by lowering costs in the Public Employees Retirement System and raising new revenue through higher cigarette taxes and limits on income-tax deductions. He's also said he's open to a Republican demand for a small-business tax cut that has rankled some on the left.

Kitzhaber told lawmakers that he'll call a special session beginning Sept. 30 if he can get enough support.

"We offered the governor some options that would produce additional PERS reform and help our schools and increase public safety. I hope the Democratic leadership works with us to find a solution that serves our kids and communities."

Lawmakers were tight-lipped after the meeting, declining to reveal details of what they discussed — a sign that they may believe there's room for progress.

Kitzhaber talked on and off for months with senior lawmakers during the legislative session that ended July 8, but they could not come to consensus.

The discussion is politically fraught for both sides and will only get more complicated as the 2014 election gets closer. Democrats refuse to risk angering their base if they support cuts in retirement benefits for government workers, and Republicans risk upsetting conservatives if they support higher taxes. Several Senate Republicans have said they're open to voting for a tax increase, but only if it's coupled with a tax cut for people who own certain types of small businesses.

Tax increases require support from 60 percent of the House and Senate, and Democratic majorities aren't large enough to it on their own.

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