Topic of Brown-Courtney meeting a mystery

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SALEM, Ore. — Two weeks before Gov. Kate Brown unveiled her plan for spending billions of dollars in new revenue, assuming a controversial corporate tax measure passes this fall, she did something unusual: On a Sunday, she dropped by Senate President Peter Courtney’s home for an informal meeting.

Did they discuss Brown’s spending plan for the tax measure, known as Initiative Petition 28? What about a special legislative session to provide an alternative to the union-backed measure? Neither camp will say.

“We talked about life, and I’m gonna leave it at that,” said Courtney, D-Salem, adding that the union-backed tax measure “has been a part of our discussions for quite awhile. I’m going to tell you that, because I don’t want to make a mistake.”

But the acknowledgment of the meeting and its secret agenda adds to the politics around the measure, which could raise as much as $3 billion a year if it survives a campaign fight from some leading Oregon businesses.

Courtney confirmed that the two had been discussing for weeks whether Brown should call lawmakers back to the Capitol. Courtney, who last year compared the measure with the Civil War and called for compromise, said he talks to Brown all the time, and the tax measure “and the special session, that’s been there for weeks now.”

He also said Brown has yet to rule out a special session, at least not when they’ve discussed it. For many observers, Brown’s announcement of a spending plan signaled she’d given up on plans to gather lawmakers before the November election.

The revelation that Brown and Courtney were discussing a possible special session is somewhat surprising, given that Brown told reporters in March she did not plan to call one. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, also has said she’s not interested in a special session.

“The governor has never said to me, ‘I will not call a special session,’ in all the times I’ve talked about (an Initiative Petition 28) special session,” Courtney said.

Neither Brown nor Courtney would disclose what they talked about in that meeting, which Brown’s office said likely took place May 22.