January 9, 2017
Thank you, Madam Speaker and thank you for your
extraordinary service to Oregon.
I am inspired by the leadership that’s earned you the
Speaker’s office for a third consecutive assembly.
Exactly 50 years ago today—January
9, 1967—Tom McCall stood where I stand and took the oath of office as Oregon’s
Governor. Oregon has changed in
countless ways in the past half-century, but one principle that has endured can
be found in the words Governor McCall spoke at the beginning of his inaugural
They are words about the importance
of a strong relationship between the Governor and the Legislature.
“To the extent it is humanly
possible to do so,” said Governor McCall, “let us put aside the temptations to
be guided by regionalism, factionalism, or anything which fragments the public
interest. May we pledge to one
another….to work not in partisanship, but in partnership.”
It is in that spirit that I address
you, the members of the 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly; and it is that spirit
that I address all Oregonians.
Let me start by congratulating my
fellow statewides: Secretary of State
Dennis Richardson, State Treasurer Tobias Read, and Attorney General Ellen
And congratulations and welcome to
all our legislators. This freshman class includes Representative Teresa Alonso
Leon, who personally knocked on more than 4,000 doors during her campaign, and
Senator Alan DeBoer, who won his election by just over 500 votes. Given the fact that I won my first
legislative race by 7 votes, I consider a 500 vote victory to be a landslide!
I know this is a very exciting and
special day for you and your families, and I am so grateful for your commitment
to public service.
Speaking of public service, I
believe it is worth noting that the legislative assembly that begins today is
the eighth assembly in which Peter Courtney will preside as President of the
Senate—a number that is unmatched in Oregon’s 158-year history. Nobody loves this building and the Legislature
more than Peter Courtney. Please join me in saluting him on his historic
Two final notes of personal privilege:
I’d like to thank my family and friends for all their love and support, which encourages
and motivates me daily.
And secondly, courage is defined as “mental or moral
strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
Personally, I define courage—and I
suspect that many of you do as well in just three words: Representative Vic Gilliam. Representative Gilliam, your presence here
today inspires all of us.
Members of the Legislature and my
fellow Oregonians, I am honored to stand before you as your duly elected
Governor. I take the oath today in far happier
circumstances than I did nearly two years ago in February 2015.
Despite those circumstances and the
fact that the 2015 session was already underway, we worked together in the
months that followed and achieved some important accomplishments.
We adopted meaningful ethics
reforms needed to regain the trust of all Oregonians.
We invested in a seamless system of
public education from cradle to career, including early childhood education,
all-day kindergarten, and our community college access program, the Oregon
We expanded the Oregon Opportunity
Grants to help more Oregon students pay for college.
We passed paid sick leave so that
more workers would no longer have to choose between keeping their job or paying
We also got stuff done during the
2016 short session. We raised the
minimum wage, thereby supporting Oregon families struggling to make ends meet,
and making the statement that no one working full time should be living in
We responded to the tragedy at
Umpqua Community College by providing $6 million to address campus and
We upheld the tradition of leading
on environmental stewardship by making Oregon, once again, a national and global
model with the passage of the nation’s first coal-to-clean law, eliminating coal-fired
electricity for good.
As I’ve often said, future
generations will judge us not on the fact of climate change, but how we
responded to it. Under my leadership, we will continue to move Oregon forward.
But for me, and I suspect for
Senator Chuck Thomsen and Representative Mark Johnson, one of the most
memorable days of that session was the day when we passed legislation forever
proclaiming March 28 as Minoru Yasui Day in Oregon.
Born in Hood River a little over
100 years ago, Minoru Yasui was the first Japanese American to
graduate from the University of Oregon School of Law School and the first
Japanese American member of the Oregon Bar.
He made national history by challenging the constitutionality of Executive
Order 9066, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, which
required persons of Japanese ancestry to remain in their homes between the
hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
On March 28, 1942, at the age of 25,
Mr. Yasui put his personal liberty on the line for justice, as he intentionally
violated the curfew by walking the streets of Portland. He was be arrested and imprisoned for nine
months in solitary confinement at the Multnomah County Jail before being ordered
to the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, where he would
remain until near the end of the war.
Mr. Yasui eventually established a
law practice in Denver, and, until his death in 1986, continued to fight for
civil rights for all and for the courts to rule that Executive Order 9066 was
unconstitutional. Mr. Yasui’s ashes are buried beneath a pair of giant cedars
in a Hood River cemetery.
In November 2015, President Obama
awarded Mr. Yasui with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest award that
can be bestowed upon an American citizen. He is the only Oregonian ever to
receive this award.
I share this story today because
America has just come through the most bitter and divisive national election in
memory; an election featuring rhetoric questioning the very citizenship and
civil rights of Americans.
And I want to make it very clear
that here in Oregon, where thousands have fought for and demanded equality, we
can not and will not retreat.
We must guard against prejudice
based on race, ethnicity, religion or belief.
We must not allow the rights of any
one person or class of people to be degraded in any way.
We must continue to fight to
preserve the Oregon tradition of respecting the treaty rights of the nine
sovereign Tribal nations. And of working with all the native peoples who join
us in calling this great State Home.
We must champion women’s rights and
fight for our struggling families.
We must stand up for our veterans.
We must defend the rights of LGBTQ
We must preserve and strengthen the
Oregon tradition of working with our nine sovereign Tribal nations and all
native peoples who join us in calling this great State Home.
In short, we must always remember
the words of Mr. Yasui, who said, “If we believe in America, if we believe in
equality and democracy, if we believe in law and justice, then each of us, when
we see or believe errors are being made, has an obligation to make every effort
to correct them.”
The guiding principle of my public
service is to fight to bring opportunity to all Oregonians. Especially those
who haven’t had a fair shot or who have been left behind.
This has been and remains the
guiding principle of my public service career. This principle can be seen in
the priorities and programs I have outlined in my proposed budget.
It is a budget that prioritizes
what I believe are the three requirements central to building a successful
life: the opportunity for a good job;
the opportunity for good health; and the opportunity for a good education.
Let me briefly touch upon each of these:
For those living in urban Oregon,
it seems like the economy is growing like a gangly teenage boy: overnight and out of control. For the first time in almost two decades, the
statewide unemployment rate dropped below the national average. News outlets from
Forbes to Fortune to Bloomberg are writing glowing profiles of Oregon’s
But for rural communities such as John
Day or Powell Butte, as Republican Leaders Ted Ferrioli and Mike McLane know so
well, there is a disturbing gap between the unemployment rate in urban Oregon
and rural Oregon.
For families living in Columbia,
Coos, Crook, or any of our rural counties, we must bust open the doors of opportunity so that individuals can find
good paying jobs right where they live.
To accomplish this, and to ensure
the economy is humming in every single corner of Oregon, we need to take a
multifaceted approach, leveraging investments in workforce development,
infrastructure, collaboration, and innovation.
As I have traveled across Oregon,
countless employers and business owners have told me that they’ve struggled to
find the employees to meet their needs.
One way we can help them is to make Columbia County—with an unemployment
rate of 6.3 percent — the national role model for 21st century workforce
Based on a model created in
England—and bolstered by the determination and drive of the indomitable Senator
Betsy Johnson—we have reallocated resources at Business Oregon and partnered
with the private sector to build the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation
Center. It’s a place where high school
graduates will learn the technical—and sought after—skills that successful
businesses need; skills that will enable them to find good-paying jobs as
welders, electricians, and builders.
These are jobs that provide
financial security that goes beyond the next paycheck.
The center is not even finished,
and it is already a model of success.
Twelve large manufacturers have made commitments to the center and some
are expressing interest in opening their own facilities in Scappoose.
Like Columbia County, Coos County
also knows the struggles of rural Oregon all too well. This is despite creative efforts to expand
access to good jobs, an internationally renowned golf resort, and extensive
state investments in the port. In spite
of all this, the region is still struggling with an unemployment rate of 6.4
I believe, however, there is an
opportunity to create jobs right now.
That opportunity is in the 135 bridges we have on our coast.
Experts tell us that 100 or so of
those bridges will either be totally destroyed or severely damaged in the event
of the major earthquake that many geologists believe is inevitable.
Let’s create more good-paying,
family-wage jobs in Coos and Curry counties and all along Highway 101 by
investing in seismic retrofitting of our coastal roads and bridges.
Just like seismic retrofitting
creates jobs on the coast, it can also create economic opportunity in Central
and Eastern Oregon. I have heard from truck drivers who are starting to use
U.S. 97 as an alternative route to avoid the traffic congestion we are facing
in the Portland metro region—congestion that has led to metro commuters
spending 52 more hours a year in their cars.
U.S. 97 is also the alternative
route through our state in the event of that major earthquake. It is a crucial artery for safety that can
also create jobs.
Let’s make the investment to make
U.S. 97 functional right now.
Improvements to coastal bridges and
Highway 97 are just parts of a transportation package that I have been working
on with legislators and community and business leaders. And I am confident that before this session
adjourns, this Legislature will have passed, and I will have signed into law, a
bi-partisan transportation bill that will move Oregon forward in the 21st
But it will take more than a
transportation package to bring the economic opportunities that will help rural
It will also take investments in
our water. In the Umatilla Basin, we’ve
shown that getting water out of the Columbia River and onto the ground helps
grow crops, which, in turn, helps grow jobs. That’s why my budget includes $32 million in
bond funding in grants for local water projects, which will help meet the needs
of rural communities, agriculture, and the environment.
We have found another path in
places such as Grant County, through the “Good Neighbor Agreement” we have signed
with the U.S. Forest Service. Thanks to
this partnership, we have seen a 14 percent increase in timber harvests, and a
16 percent increase in timber-related jobs.
We must continue to search for similar innovative programs that are good
for both the economy and the environment.
That’s why I’ve invested in the
Rural Entrepreneurship Development Initiative—or REDI. This is a program to help rural entrepreneurs
get the capital and expertise they need to build their small businesses into
thriving economic engines.
I’ve also invested in the
technologies that inspire these entrepreneurs. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and cross-laminated
timber aren’t just the hot tech trends of the moment. They are brilliant innovations that can’t
grow without space and trees—two items that rural Oregon has in abundance.
I believe that by investing in
workforce development, roads and bridges, and innovative partnerships; by
leveraging the human, material, and natural resources that once made our rural
communities the most prosperous in the state, we have a real chance to tackle
the economic fault line that has split our state in two.
It takes a constellation of approaches
and the work of all of us to build a bridge to one another and ensure our
entire economy continues to thrive
In every county.
Rural and urban.
Let me turn now from economic
health to the physical health of Oregonians.
We all know that good health is fundamental to the well-being and self
sufficiency of every Oregonian.
I am so proud to report that we
have made great progress in the equitable delivery of health care. Over the past several years, Oregon has
expanded health care to 95 percent of adults and 98 percent of children.
These are numbers worth repeating! Here in Oregon, 95 percent of adults, and 98
percent of children now have access to healthcare.
We should not and cannot stop until
every Oregonian is covered. Health care is about more than just seeing a
doctor. Every child in this state deserves the opportunity to be healthy and
One of the families who now has
health care is the Camacho family in Medford.
Kelleni Camacho grew up in a family that struggled with abuse and addiction, which
influenced her to make lifestyle choices she knew were detrimental. She was referred to Jackson Care Connect, a
Coordinated Care Organization. In their 12 week “Healthier New You” program, she
was able to transform not just her life, but the lives of her husband and son.
Before starting the program,
Kelleni was overweight and facing a host of related health problems. Her entire
family, including her husband and her son also struggled with obesity.
Once she had access to care, Kelleni
took what she learned and taught her family to read nutrition labels, chose
foods that were good for them, and begin to exercise more. They all each lost a
significant amount of weight.
Carlos, her son, was the
self-described “chubby kid” who would think nothing of eating a bag of chips in
one sitting. He began to exercise with
his mom, and they even grew fresh vegetables in their apartment. Carlos gained strength, and eventually became
a successful athlete, which, in turn, made him want to be a successful
student. He says his wrestling coach is
strict about grades, and won’t let them practice if they have behavior issues
or miss class.
Carlos sums it up by saying that
the program makes him want to, “do good.”
As impressive as Carlos’ story is,
we still have more work to do.
We still have children and families
in our state who do not have health insurance. And they don’t have access to
the services that transformed Carlos and his family’s lives.
As their story demonstrates, health
care coverage is foundational to health and well-being.
This is why I have proposed
investing additional funds to expand health insurance coverage to all
children in Oregon. With this, we can provide the opportunity for good health
to every single Oregon child, and ensure every child is able to reach their
It was once said that “A school is
a building with four walls on the outside and tomorrow on the inside.” And there can be no doubt that the
opportunities for a successful life for our children and our grandchildren
depend upon our ability to provide an education of the highest possible
And there is no doubt, the
investments we have made in the past two years in our early learning, K-through-12,
and post secondary education systems have made a difference. Yet, there are still
some statistics that should disturb us.
Our schools continue to be among
the nation’s leaders in all the wrong categories—the largest class size, the
shortest school year, and the highest drop-out rate. And in some rural counties
such as Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson, despite heroic efforts by local
educators, fewer than half of young children are meeting early milestones
indicating that a child is “school ready.”
To be sure, there are bright
spots. One can be found in the fact that
The Oregon Promise program has opened doors of opportunity by making higher
education more accessible and affordable for more Oregon students.
Take Nia Sanders, for example. Nia is a first year, full-time student at
Portland Community College. Nia says the
financial help she receives from Oregon Promise covers most of her tuition,
leaving her to pay about $300 to cover books and fees per term.
Nia says the Oregon Promise has
given her the space to plan for her future. In addition to school, she now
works about 32 hours a week to save money, so she can eventually transfer to a four-year
school. She says the Oregon Promise is helping her achieve her goal of majoring
in psychology and becoming a therapist.
Let’s ensure that Nia’s story isn’t
unique. Let’s make sure that every student
in Oregon—especially historically underserved students--has the chance to
achieve their own dreams.
And let me be clear: My top priority is improving Oregon’s high
school graduation rates. That is why my
proposed budget creates a graduation equity fund. It will be used to address
school attendance, help students who are experiencing trauma, and make
investments in underserved communities.
An education system that opens the
doors of opportunity to all those who represent the Oregon of tomorrow.
A healthcare system that makes sure
100 percent of Oregon’s children have access to care.
An economy that creates the
opportunity for good-paying jobs in Portland and Port Orford and every
community in between.
These are goals that unite all
Oregonians. These are goals that we can only achieve by working together.
I am and always have been an
optimist. But I am not naïve. I know there are obstacles that stand in our
way of creating a better future.
Chief among them, of course, is a
$1.7 billion budget deficit. Three-fifths of this deficit is the cost of
expanding health care to all Oregonians.
One-fifth is the unfunded cost of three new ballot measures approved in
November. And another fifth is the
unfunded PERS liability.
The budget I have proposed is
balanced. It does account for the entire
shortfall. But it is only a short-term solution.
The time for short-term solutions
and kicking the can down the road has passed.
For longer than I have served in
government, Oregon has faced a revenue shortfall—a little less painful in good
times, catastrophic in bad times. We
have cut and we have squeezed. Our roads, our public safety, and our schools
have paid the price.
And we now have two modern-day
Oregon trails to choose from.
One trail is to continue the
endless process of slicing and squeezing, of diminishing our hopes and
expectations, and shrinking our dreams of what it means to be an Oregonian.
The other trail is to follow the
advice of Governor McCall. To not be
guided by regionalism and factionalism.
To work in partnership, rather than
It is a trail that will involve
hard work and painful choices. But it is,
my fellow Oregonians, the only path to follow.
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.
And if we are to win that fight
then there are three actions we must take:
First, we must do everything
possible this year and every year to ensure that each and every tax dollar is
spent wisely and efficiently.
Second, we must change our state’s
tax structure so that we have a fair and balanced tax system that provides the stable
and adequate funding that allows us to properly fund our schools and to meet
our critical needs.
And third, we must address the
ongoing PERS liability in a way that keeps our promises to retirees and does
not put us back on an endless hamster wheel of litigation.
As Secretary of State I made great progress
in cutting the red tape businesses had to navigate to access services they
needed to grow. As your governor, I’ve been able to improve services at several
agencies and in my own office.
I’ve called on state managers to take
specific actions to save money, such as delaying the filling of vacant
positions, and eliminating non-essential travel. I have also directed agencies
to work to improve business practices and operate more efficiently and at less
A couple of examples:
at the Department of Administrative Services renegotiated lease agreements,
saving nearly $64 million dollars in rent over the course of the leases.
Oregon State Police revamped its training programs, reducing injuries and
related costs by as much as 35 percent.
But, more must be done.
To identify best practices and make recommendations in time for the 2018
legislative session, I am appointing a panel to engage with stakeholders in
both the public and private sectors. The panel will make recommendations on how
state government can operate more efficiently, streamline the services that
support our economy, and bolster the services that our vulnerable families
They will seek out solutions to the
institutional obstacles that, at times, hinder our ability to serve Oregonians.
We deserve smarter government.
This same goal should be kept in mind
when addressing the weight the PERS liability puts on our resources.
I’m proposing we manage our investments
more effectively, creating greater returns while innovating practices. My
Office is working to identify what we can do now, such as bringing investment
services in-house, to responsibly carry out our duty to retirees.
forward to the other solutions to be proposed in the months ahead. As we
consider our next steps, let’s agree to keep our promises to retirees. Let’s
ensure that no one can advantage of the system. And let’s seek solutions that
are legally viable, so that dead ends aren’t left to languish in court while
the challenge of PERS only continues to grow.
We must also rethink the fairness of
our tax system and address the burden our families carry to fund state
Under my direction, my office will work
with stakeholders on potential options to generate the revenue we need so
We will work with all of you to restore
fairness and balance to our tax system.
We need solutions that don’t unfairly
burden working families struggling to make ends meet.
We need solutions that support economic growth in our rural and urban communities.
We’ve learned, painfully, that there is
no painless solution. But we must do this together.
Make no mistake the Oregonians who
elected us put their trust in us to lead.
They expect us to roll up our sleeves
and get to work.
They expect us to work together.
I began my remarks today with a great Oregonian, Tom McCall.
I end my remarks with the words used by another great Oregonian—Mark
Hatfield—to conclude his inaugural address as Governor in January 1959. May these words guide each of us in this
chamber in the months ahead.
Governor Hatfield said, “For those
of us who make government policy, our good and bad alike live after us. The
seeds we sow, our children reap. Let us
prepare for them a good harvest, so that Oregon may have a bountiful future.”
It is my hope that future
generations will look back at this legislative session and say, “Here is where
bright successes were achieved. Here is
where the seeds were sown for a good harvest.
Here is where a bountiful future for Oregon was planted.”