Valley and State In Brief

Governor wants cigarette machine ban

SALEM — Gov. Ted Kulongoski is calling on the 2009 Legislature to ban vending machines that sell cigarettes, erasing one of the easiest ways underage smokers can buy the product.

"It's just bringing these vending machines in line with the laws that everyone else who sells tobacco products have to play by," said Jillian Schoene, a spokeswoman for the governor.

A state Department of Human Service survey found that most eighth-graders get their cigarettes from friends. Only 7 percent reported getting cigarettes from vending machines, which are generally located in motels and taverns.

Lou Leberti, a veteran of the vending machine business, predicted that a ban would do little to keep cigarettes from those younger than 18.

"It's just a political statement," the Coos Bay businessman said.

Leberti was still in high school in 1964 when he started working for the company he now owns, Vend West Services. Back then, the company had 350 cigarette vending machines. Today, Vend West mostly focuses on snacks and candy. It maintains three cigarettes machines in taverns and three at The Mill Casino in North Bend. Not one of them is accessible to minors.

Leberti said the three tavern-housed machines could be removed on Jan. 1, when Oregon joins other states in banning smoking in bars.

Kulongoski proposes mileage tax

SALEM — Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he will ask the Legislature to begin "a path to transition away from the gas tax as the central funding source for transportation" and to replace it with a mileage tax boosted by satellite technology.

A year ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced it had demonstrated that a mileage tax could work.

The proposal is part of a transportation-related bill he has filed for the upcoming session.

"As Oregonians drive less and demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system," according to the policies he has outlined online.

Kulongoski proposes to continue the work of the special task force that came up with and tested the idea of a mileage tax to replace the gas tax, the Albany Democrat-Herald reported Sunday.

The governor wants the task force "to partner with auto manufacturers to refine technology that would enable Oregonians to pay for the transportation system based on how many miles they drive."

The online outline adds: "The governor is committed to ensuring that rural Oregon is not adversely affected and that privacy concerns are addressed."

Critics had worried that the technology could be used to track where vehicles go, not just how far they travel, and that this information could be stored by the government.

Mail returns to areas hard hit by snow

PORTLAND — Never mind that a U.S. Postal Service motto says "neither snow, nor rain... will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds."

For a week, the postal service's delivery has been spotty in the Portland area as many mail carriers have tried to navigate through snow and icy roads, especially in the city's highest points and outlying communities.

In some cases, postal service spokesman Ron Anderson says, carriers have bypassed mailboxes blocked by piles of snow that have been slow to melt.

Gresham postmaster John Ballard says residence are responsible for clearing the snow around their mailboxes.

The Postal Service says it hopes mail delivery returns to normal today since warmer weather is turning snow to slush and thawing ice.

— The Associated Press