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Like other savvy politicians, state Sen. Chris Telfer, R-Bend, issued a press release via the caucus office crediting herself for her accomplishments in the 2012 legislative session:
Senator Chris Telfer (R-Bend) wrestled several important successes from Oregon’s first annual session, which ended Monday evening. Among her accomplishments are two substantial job-creating bills and a fiscally responsible budget agreement that controls state spending.
Innocuous enough, right? Except that the press release prompted this tweet from a colleague of PolitiFact Oregon: OR Sen. Telfer, R-Bend, takes credit for "fiscally responsible budget" -- which she voted against.
Whoa. That got our attention. What’s the story? We found there were votes on five budget related bills Monday, the last day of the 2012 legislative session. Telfer voted in favor of bonding and capital construction, but voted against operating money to run state government.
The key bill was Senate Bill 5701, the "omnibus budget reconciliation bill" that reflects the bulk of the agreement struck by House and Senate budget negotiators. Nine Republicans in the Senate voted no, including Telfer. Senate Bill 5702 allocates the other part of state general fund: state lottery money. Two Republicans voted no, including Telfer.
Telfer is a certified public accountant who is not on the Ways and Means Committee. She said on the floor that the budget bills were important bills, but she didn’t receive them in time to vet them properly. She also said that there is extra money on the books that state agencies are hiding from lawmakers.
"Just letting everybody know that I will be no on all the budget bills," she said on the floor.
We reached Telfer by telephone. She said she did not write the press release, but did review it and she stands by the statement.
She said the budget agreement struck by the three budget writers reflects her stance on trimming state personnel and opposing new taxes. She said she was in frequent contact with the office of Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, the Republican in the meetings. Her no votes were an opportunity to send a message to fellow lawmakers, Telfer said.
"It’s a budget I can live with," she said, "but I certainly think there were lots of faults with the budget."
To be fair, the press release went on to talk about her advocacy for "budget transparency and accountability" and that she fought "to end runaway state spending and successfully lobbied against new taxes and fees increases." In other words, the release was candid about the general nature of her role.
But the statement specifically cites "among her accomplishments are … a fiscally responsible budget agreement that controls state spending." Telfer didn’t negotiate, or help negotiate, that agreement. Not only that, she voted against the bills that authorize operating money for state government.
Her statement is not accurate and it makes a ridiculous claim. We rule the statement Pants on Fire.
Office of Sen. Chris Telfer, press release, "Close of session brings fiscal, economic victories for Telfer," March 6, 2012
Email from Michael Gay, spokesman, Oregon Senate Republicans, March 6, 2012
News/Talk 1110/KBND, "Telfer says some state agencies are hiding money," March 6, 2012
Interview with Chris Telfer, March 7, 2012
Senate floor session, March 5, 2012, 5:42 p.m. start
Email from Ken Rocco, Legislative Fiscal Office, March 8, 2012
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