Vic Gilliam: Incumbent targets ‘ending-fund’ balances

October 2010 Posted in News, People

By Jay ShenaiVic Gilliam speaking at a public debate at Homer Davenport Days in Silverton.

When he’s not representing the people of Oregon House District 18, or seeking their vote, Vic Gilliam is a part-time actor.

His work is mostly comprised of the kind of roles Portland-area actors can expect, he said, niche, industry-specific training films and voice-overs for local restaurants and car dealerships, but he did once land a bit role on an episode of the TNT television show Leverage.

From his living room couch, feet up on the coffee table, he joked about his unusual career arc.
“I don’t really want to be the governor, I just want to play him on television,” he said.

It’s this sense of humor that is the most defining characteristic of the incumbent Republican,  said his friends, colleagues and adversaries alike.

“Anyone who has spent five minutes with Vic sees his sense of humor that most days I can’t keep up with,” said Megan Danilson, coordinator for the Gilliam campaign.

Former Silverton Mayor Ken Hector, a friend of the Gilliam family, agrees. He recalls one particular moment during a previous Legislative session that stands out as a perfect example. While speaking on the House floor, Gilliam moved to formally recognize constituents from Molalla who had come into the chamber’s balcony to witness the proceedings, in a formality that’s known as a “courtesy.” But along with the handful of people in attendance, he also snuck in a shout-out to a rather obscure attendee, named “Y. U. Taxme.”

Not many people caught on to the joke at the time, Hector said.

He’s “one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” he said.

Vic Gilliam, 57
Hometown: Born in Ohio, lived in Indiana.
Moved to Oregon in 1966

Education: master’s degree in
Higher Education Administration,
University of South Carolina, 1982;
bachelor of arts degree from Warner Pacific College, 1975.

Family: Wife, Becky, married 7 years,
They bring to the family three children from prior marriages.

Job: Representative, Oregon House District 18.
Owns several investment properties and part-time actor.
Former legislative liaison for
Oregon Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, 1976 – 1981.
Former fundraiser for OHSU, Willamette University.

Favorite Music: Blues, particularly John Lee Hooker,
George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Muddy Waters

Favorite Movie: The Princess Bride

Favorite Book: Abraham Lincoln,
Theologian of American Anguish

by David Elton Trueblood

“Initially that was all I knew about him,” said Brian Clem, Democrat Representative for neighboring District 21, “good floor speeches, very witty.” But since they both began serving in the House in 2007, he has come to respect Gilliam as an informed partner in the Legislative process, he said, and a cordial colleague willing to reach across the aisle.

“I think he’s coming into his own as a legislator,” he said.

He’s “getting to be himself,” Clem said.

Both Clem and Gilliam serve on the House committee for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Communities. In 2009, they co-sponsored the Farm to School bill (HB 2800), which mandates giving reimbursements to school districts that serve local, Oregon-grown foods as part of their breakfast and lunch programs. They also co-sponsored HB 2763, which allows state agencies, in certain circumstances, to choose local suppliers even in the face of cheaper, out-of-state alternatives.

But in case he forgets that Gilliam is political adversary, Clem need only look at HB 3298, a bill he sponsored and Gilliam voted against, which creates environmental protections for 400 square miles of the Metolius River. He said that it’s a source of consternation between the two to this day.

“I’m certain I’m right, he’s certain he’s right,” he said.

As a politician, Gilliam adheres to conservative positions. He is pro-life and anti-gun-control. He doesn’t regularly attend church but he expressed the importance of his faith in policy-making.

“My dad’s a minister, and I went to [more] church services, from the time I was zero to 18, than most people will go in a lifetime,” he said.

And on the campaign trail this season he has come out swinging against restrictions on property rights and excessive government regulation of businesses. In multiple speeches, he has railed against those he calls “extremists,” environmental advocates who he says have locked up the state’s natural resources with litigation and obstruction.

“I believe rural Oregon is going to hurt more than the rest of the state,” he said. “Natural resources have been under siege, property rights have been under siege for a long time in this state.”

Add to that the economic turmoil, and “our area will be one of the last out [of the recession].”

He said the Democratic leadership in Salem is “hell-bent on ruining the economy of this state.”

“Pretty strong, isn’t it?” he said with a chuckle.

A review of his voting record shows a pattern of “no” votes on bills that would affect budgets, taxes and spending; businesses and consumers; and environmental regulation, consistent with his party’s pro-business, limited-government positions.

Specifically, on 24 such bills Gilliam voted “no”: spending bills, various tax increases, budget appropriations, and regulations on workplace meetings, field burning, nutrition-labeling, petition signature-gathering and off-shore oil drilling.

All 24 bills passed, however. As a member of the minority party, “you measure progress in inches, not miles,” Gilliam said.

During this election, he is striving not only to keep his seat, but support and campaign for fellow Republicans across the state, to achieve more balance in the Legislature, he said. Just one more Republican, he said, would remove the ability of Democrats to pass tax measures unilaterally. For the time being, in the minority, he can continue to raise his voice for his district, he said.

Regardless of who comes out on top this election, the winner will face one of the state’s worst crises in ages: a crippling budget deficit projected at $577 million, with the potential to exceed $1 billion by the next biennium, brought on by a recession that has tested the area’s social and economic resilience.

“We haven’t seen a decline in personal wealth like this in decades,” Clem said.

“You go into [Silverton] and you look at all of the empty storefronts,” Hector said.

If re-elected, he will support a restructured, back-to-basics budget, Gilliam said, one that also targets nearly $3 billion in ending-fund balances, the collective leftover money that every state agency has at the end of their fiscal year. The idea was quashed in the last session, but Gilliam is steadfast: Without risking Federal matching grants, every agency can give back something.

“You’re telling me, that when we’re in this kind of a recession, this is the rainy day, that you can’t [give up] 20 percent of that $3 billion to balance the budget?” he asked.

Everyone is going to have to tighten their belts, he said.

“But we can provide basic services and still balance this budget.”

What constitutes “basic services” will be the biggest bone of contention for the next Legislature.

A legislature Gilliam hopes to be on, representing the constituents of District 18.

And one “Y.U. Taxme.”

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