Media Room

Remarks as prepared
December 5, 2016

Video

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today.

Let’s cut right to the chase. On election night Oregon voters elected me to lead the state of Oregon. And at the same time they also defeated Measure 97 which I supported.

You might think that puts a tremendous burden on me as your Governor to find another way forward to fund the future of Oregon. But I’m here today to state clearly that the price of victory is responsibility -- both for me and for you.

As we enter this discussion I want to be clear that in communities across our state today, we are failing many Oregonians – especially our children.  Nearly half of Oregon children are born into poverty. One in four students will not finish high school.  And it is estimated that, this year, as many as twenty-one thousand children in the K-12 system are homeless.

At the same time, we continue to increase the burden on middle class families - with higher tuition, increased fees and inadequate roads and bridges. State resources are not keeping pace with these needs.

Nonetheless, in the upcoming biennium, state government will again tighten belts and cut expenses.  We are now tasked to do more with less. And we will.

But in the long run, we can’t cut our way to prosperity.

We have a gaping, $1.7 billion-dollar budget hole. Three-fifths of this is the cost of providing healthcare to all Oregonians. One-fifth is the unfunded PERS liability, and - equal to that - one-fifth is the unfunded cost of three new ballot measures.

The budget I proposed last week is balanced -- no shortfall. It closes the $1.7 billion gap with a combination of reductions in services and new revenue. This new revenue is raised by increasing tobacco taxes, assessments on hospitals and insurance companies to help pay for health care, and closing other loopholes in the tax code.

But even with revenue increases, this budget still contains major program cuts – very painful cuts.

College tuition is likely to go up. It will take enormous effort to keep tuition hikes from reaching double digits.

We may have to close Oregon Youth Authority and state hospital facilities in Junction City and Warrenton.

We have proposed to reopen a women’s prison due to overcrowding.

Given a choice, I'd rather fund schools than open prisons. But under the current constraints, I’m left with very few choices.

This budget is only a short-term solution. So I want you to take it as the starting place for a broader conversation about how to best align our limited resources with our shared values and our vision for moving Oregon forward.

Last year, as your not-yet-elected Governor, I stood in this room and told each of you that when there’s an economic downturn, we say we have to wait until the economy is good before we address our unfair revenue structure.

And then, when the economy is good, we choose not to address our unfair revenue structure because we’re afraid it might hurt the economy.

Today, as your duly elected Governor, I come before you to say regardless of whether we’re in good times or bad, we still need stable and adequate revenue for essential services.

Even before the most expensive ballot measure campaign in Oregon’s history, many business leaders, many of you in this room, told me that:

You want a vibrant education system. One that prepares students to compete in the global economy. I agree.

You want healthy communities. That ensure every family can thrive. I think that’s right.

You want strong infrastructure. That enables workers to get to their jobs safely and products to get to market efficiently. Yes, I agree.

So we agree on what we need, and why. We just didn't agree on how.

Voters were clear that Measure 97 wasn't the right solution. But, that doesn't change the fact that we still need a solution.

So this is my challenge to you. To come up with ideas, and proposals.

Bring me solutions that restore fairness and balance to our tax system.

Bring me solutions that don’t unfairly burden working families struggling to make ends meet.

Bring me solutions that support economic growth in our rural communities.

You've demonstrated what you will NOT support -- I need to know what you CAN support. What you WILL support.

There are going to have to be sacrifices on both sides.

But I’m telling you, if your only solution is to cut teachers’ salaries and renege on our promise to retirees, then this conversation will not go very far.

In order for this to work, you can’t begin and end the conversation with what others must sacrifice, what others must give.

You also need to bring proposals to the table about what

YOU are willing to contribute.

We have to come together and know that we are all on the same side.

Fighting to make Oregon a better place for all of us to live.

Make no mistake, I will lead but, I can’t do this alone.

We CAN solve this problem.

We must do it together.

Thank you.