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Brown, Pierce Face Off in Medford Debate

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With less than four weeks till Election Day, Oregon Governor Kate Brown and her challenger Dr. Bud Pierce met in Medford for a debate Thursday night. It was the only debate of the campaign to be held in southern Oregon.

The Democratic incumbent and her Republican opponent fielded questions from a panel of journalists at KOBI-TV NBC-5 in Medford. Asked a question about PERS -- the over-extended state employee pension fund – Governor Brown responded with a swipe at Republican proposals.

“When I hear those proposals, I hear ‘lawsuit, lawsuit, lawsuit,’ back on the hamster wheel of litigation,” she said.

Brown said her legal team advised her there was no legally-viable policy that would capture sufficient savings to get PERS on solid ground. So, she’s working with the agency that invests state funds to try to get better returns on those investments. Dr. Pierce said he believed there are ways to reduce the pension fund burden on taxpayers.

Pierce restated his opposition to the corporate tax Measure 97. He said it would kill jobs and drive businesses out of Oregon. He said he has a better solution.

“I’ve prepared a budget that takes that 10 percent, a generous increase, and that funds schools at a better level, cuts taxes for low-income people and begins to do things like PERS reform,” he said. “So, I believe the government needs to live within its means.”

Brown said Measure 97 is a way to get big corporations to pay their fair share to support education and other public services.

There were areas of agreement. Both candidates said they support removing the Klamath River dams, better funding for public education and more drug treatment for opioid addiction. They also agreed that state officials should work hard to make sure children don’t get their hands on the marijuana that’s now legally available to adults in Oregon.

The candidates have one more scheduled debate, next Thursday in Portland.

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.