REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Governor's 2019-21 State Budget Release
November 28, 2018
Good morning everyone and thanks for being here in Salem on a wet, cold November day.
I’m so honored today to present my recommended budget for the 2019-21 biennium.
What’s different about this budget is that it includes my policy agenda as well. I see the efficient operation of state government and effective public policy to be one and the same. This approach is necessary because we have a lot of work to do over the next few years. Oregon’s state motto is not, she rests on her laurels.
Our state is growing faster than at any point in its history. With growth comes a lot of great things. More jobs. More people. And more opportunity.
Oregon is at a turning point. We’ve done a lot of really good things over the years, but our state is changing. And changing quickly.
With the aging of Oregon’s baby boomer generation, and the impacts of recent federal tax changes and burgeoning federal deficits, one thing is clear: we can no longer do things the way we have in the past.
We must grow up as a state, and we need to decide — together — what kind of state we want to be over the next 20 years.
Fortunately, our current strong economy gives us the best chance in a generation to address persistent, structural challenges. We must accept this challenge now, while the economy is good. If we wait, we’ll only fall further behind when the economy eventually falters.
This budget then is my vision for Oregon. My vision is for an Oregon where everyone has a chance to thrive.
At one time, every Oregonian was proud of our education system. It was a promise that if you chose to put roots down in Oregon, your children would receive a world-class education and have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. But over the past three decades, Oregon has failed to deliver on that promise.
We have not significantly increased spending per student since the early 1990s. While other states were able to invest in schools and take advantage of economic recoveries, Oregon has had to rely on state funds to backfill local property tax limitations.
How our state provides for the needs of our children is a marker of who we are as a community. After years of underinvestment, it will take more than just additional funding to bring our schools back to a level Oregonians can be proud of.
Our education system is in desperate need of repair, reform, and reinvestment. It’s like an old house that hasn’t been maintained. The longer we wait, the more it will cost to fix it.
We must reinvest in our education system by substantially increasing our funding in it. I will work with the legislature, the business community, and stakeholders to fund K-12 schools at a baseline of 9.1 billion dollars. Which includes $100 million to stabilize PERS rates.
This budget specifies exactly how that investment will be spent, how state government will operate as carefully as possible with taxpayer dollars, and how we will reduce the burden of PERS on our school districts.
I believe this historic investment is possible because we all agree that our children deserve better. Together, we have worked over the past year to build consensus on how to repair our schools.
We agree that we must prepare an additional 10,000 kids for kindergarten.
We agree that we must create a School Improvement Fund that provides for smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, and a longer school year.
And we agree that every single student must have the opportunity to participate in a CTE or other hands-on learning class.
To ensure that these efforts are carried out responsibly, we must also reform the governance that oversees our schools by increasing accountability and streamlining state agencies.
I will allow the Chief Education Office to sunset next year and will move those functions to the Governor’s Office. As Superintendent of Schools, this will streamline my oversight of our education system and ensure greater accountability across the board.
Accountability will start with an audit to make sure the School Improvement Fund will be used to improve graduation rates, reduce class sizes, and provide a full school year. Oregonians deserve transparency into how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.
We must also use this time in our history to ensure Oregon is a place everyone can afford to live in. For too many Oregonians, the costs of housing, health care, child care, and higher education are too great of a burden. This budget makes a historic $400 million dollar investment in housing, makes strides towards affordable health care and child care, and matches higher education with the skills employers need.
And while we focus on making Oregon an affordable place to live, we also prepare for the future.
To prepare the leaders of the Oregon of the future, our children need to be surrounded by successful adults and safe, stable environments. That’s why I created a children’s cabinet. The cabinet is a cross section of legislators, agency directors, and community leaders that worked across silos to create a system of early care and education. We asked ourselves, what do our families need to be stable and thrive?
The resulting policy is a series of investments to ensure that children and families are receiving the support and services they need and that our children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
It was really exciting to have so many perspectives at the table and so many different agencies rowing together to improve the future for our children.
Our children will also inherit a drastically changing climate. Wildfires have increased in intensity and severity in the past decade, threatening our culture, communities, and economy. Oregon must continue to pursue solutions that reduce emissions while creating good jobs and building a clean energy economy. Next session, I will work with the Legislature to pass a program that sets a firm but gradually declining limit on greenhouse gas emissions.
I will also continue to ensure that when Oregonians entrust state government with their tax dollars, state government uses every dollar wisely. That means streamlining state agencies, eliminating our permitting backlog, and modernizing state procurement practices, which cost the state almost $8 billion dollars.
And finally, none of what we are attempting to do is possible unless Oregon’s democracy is strong. Voting is our country’s greatest collective responsibility, and we must work vigorously to safeguard the sanctity of our elections.
While our elections institutions are among the best in the nation, we have more work to do to ensure that every voice is heard.
In 2019, I will work towards campaign finance reform, fight for paid postage on our ballots, and expand our automatic voter registration program.
Oregon is at a turning point. We are benefitting from a strong economy, but our state is not prepared to reap the rewards. At the same time, the federal government is receding from its role as a strong partner in navigating this moment.
Our state’s motto is “she flies with her own wings.” Never in our state’s history has that mantra been more fitting. We must put aside our differences and chart a path — together — towards a promising future for every Oregonian.