A complicated budget deal known as the "Grand Bargain" may get a first reading Tuesday morning if a coalition of legislators holds firm.
"At first there was no deal, then a partial deal and now a deal again," Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, said. "It's still a little bit up in the air."
Republicans complained this morning that they were sidelined in Salem without a clear direction from the governor.
"We have yet to do anything," said Rep. Sal Esquivel.
The Medford Republican said Gov. John Kitzhaber has acted irresponsibly by calling for a special session without making sure he had enough political support.
"The problem I see here is he called a special session and didn't count noses," Esquivel said.
On Sunday night, the entire Grand Bargain had fallen apart with not enough votes to back it, but Monday morning it was a different story, Esquivel said.
"It's like the ashes of the Phoenix," he said. "It's a bird again."
Esquivel said he has only a general idea of the bills that he might be considering, but hasn't seen a written proposal yet. Also, there is talk at the Capitol that there are amendments to the bills, which further adds to the confusion, Esquivel said.
Kitzhaber and various legislative leaders including Bates have held high-level meetings to work through the impasse on the Grand Bargain.
Kitzhaber has proposed a mix of tax increases on upper income earners as well as reforms for the Public Employees Retirement System. The goal is to boost education spending throughout the state.
Also on the table is Senate Bill 633 which would give the state the authority over regulating GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. The bill allows an exception for Jackson County, whose voters will consider an ordinance in 2014 that proposes a local ban on GMOs.
Bates said it has been particularly troublesome resolving issues over the revenue changes, which would raise taxes on upper income earners while offering tax breaks to small businesses.
"It's a real hodgepodge," Bates said.
He said the changes being proposed create far-reaching policy issues that are important to the state financially, he said.
An equitable approach has been difficult to work out for the retirement system reform.
He said the idea is to restrict cost-of-living increases on high-income retirees but create a system that doesn't penalize low-income retirees, who receive in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.
Despite the obstacles, Bates said he expects the bills to have a first reading tomorrow unless talks break down.
— Damian Mann