Media Room

A Thriving Oregon
December 14, 2015

As Prepared

Thank you for the opportunity to share my perspective on Oregon’s future.

As I travel throughout the state talking with Oregonians, one thing is clear: the diversity of our communities, landscapes, and perspectives is what makes Oregon special. And no matter who we are or where we live, we are united by this fundamental connection:

We all love Oregon, and want to keep it special.

We want our children to have the opportunity to get a good education and get good paying jobs in whatever community they choose to live in.

We want to support working families, preserve family farms and businesses, and keep our local economies humming in every single corner of the state.

We want our children and our children’s children to enjoy the beauty and bounty of Oregon.

A thriving Oregon: This is my vision for the future we all share.

This starts with getting Oregon back on track so that every Oregonian has the opportunity to thrive. I am pleased to share with you today my three-part blueprint for getting this done.

First, I will partner with business to continue our economic recovery statewide. This means helping Oregon companies large and small to expand, creating more good jobs for Oregonians. Because we know that 70 percent of jobs are created when existing businesses grow.

That’s why it’s so important that Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, continue its mission to ‘grow our own’, making sure businesses are able to thrive in Oregon.

The Oregon Business Plan even offers a specific metric as an indicator of progress: adding 25,000 jobs to the economy each year.

In 2014, Oregon’s economy grew sufficiently to add 52,600 jobs, and that positive trend continues, with 39,000 new jobs added between January and December 2015. Our job growth rate is a full percentage point higher than the national average.

We must keep this up.

Many of the people in this room share the credit for this remarkable job growth. Thank you for your contributions to Oregon’s economic recovery.

Of course, state government doesn’t create jobs, but state government can add value to the overall economic enterprise.

For example, as a state we can continue to promote Oregon worldwide. There are many opportunities for Oregon products in Asian markets. During last year’s wildfire season, I watched an Erickson helicopter in action, conveying enormous quantities of water to mitigate fire. Just a few weeks later, I led a delegation to Asia to promote the Oregon business and products. We connected with officials from Erickson Helicopters Incorporated in Beijing and witnessed the beginning of a new partnership with Chinese officials.

In addition to promoting our own products, the state must make it as easy as possible to start or expand a business in Oregon, and that means streamlining regulation and cutting red tape.

As Secretary of State, I created the Office of the Small Business Advocate that provides assistance to small business owner. It has been very effective at reducing red tape. The office has opened 329 cases to date, and last September, The Oregonian editorial board praised the Office of the Small Business Advocate as, “…a small investment…producing significant returns.”

In the 2016 session, I intend to expand that unit to serve more businesses, so business owners can spend less time with regulators and more time serving customers.

Additionally, state government invests in important infrastructure essential to a strong business environment.

Making sure our roads and bridges are in good working order, and addressing traffic congestion, will help get goods to market and workers to their jobs safely and efficiently.

Congress took action on legislation in early December that is likely to yield an additional – and much needed – $235 million for Oregon over the next five years. I’d like to thank the members of our federal delegation for their amazing efforts in support of transportation funding for Oregon. This long-awaited Congressional action helps, but it won’t make much of a dent in our transportation to-do list:

According to ODOT, more than half of Oregon’s bridges were built prior to 1970, and 57 percent will reach the end of their design lives by 2020. And that’s just our bridges.

The Medford viaduct – a highly-used commercial trucking route – is just one major seismic event away from isolating southern Oregon and severely constraining the through-access to California. And there are many other transportation projects that need our support and attention – and soon.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Oregon needs a transportation package. After the 2015 session, the petroleum and trucking industry indicated their intention to put a measure on the ballot in 2016 to repeal Oregon’s clean fuels law.

After conferring with legislative leadership, I made the decision to defer action on a transportation package until 2017 to achieve closure on the ballot measure question.

Development of a transportation package is already underway, and as we prepare for the 2017 session, I will be counting on all of you to work together to address our transportation needs. As I am sure you agree, we cannot afford to wait much longer.

The state can also spur job creation by supporting innovation.

Cross-laminated timber – CLT – is a good example of the benefits of this kind of forward thinking.

The state wisely invested in a partnership between OSU and University of Oregon in advanced wood manufacturing. Being on the forefront of a supply chain for an emerging technology is a valuable position for the state to be in. Perhaps most importantly, as the industry grows, CLT production may give timber-focused economies in rural Oregon communities – some of the hardest-hit in our state – a much-needed economic boost.

The second step in my plan for getting Oregon back on track is fixing state government.

Since I took office in February, I have been working to rebuild public trust by improving transparency and demonstrating accountability. Transparency is not only about facilitating greater access to public records. It is also about making sure Oregon state government is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

We need a public records advocate, an independent and objective entity that can facilitate the release of records in ways that are consistent, timely and fair to all parties.

Building on the legislation I signed into law last session, we are crafting more policy proposals for the 2016 session focused on government ethics and transparency, including creation of a public records advocate.

As you may have heard in the media recently, I have undertaken management reviews of several state agencies in response to serious issues that have come to light.

With every challenge comes opportunity, and mine is to get state government back on track. That means implementing the recommendations of the performance reviews. It means holding agencies’ feet to the fire when they don’t deliver on expected outcomes. It means articulating my expectations and making budget decisions based on those expectations.

In some areas, outcomes-based budgeting is already in place. For example, this year, the state and our seven public universities came together to design an innovative new funding model. For the first time, a portion of state funding for universities is tied to student completion of a degree or certificate. This has spurred universities to invest in critical student supports that engage and empower our highest-need students to overcome barriers and complete their college degrees.

Moving forward, you will see more examples of outcomes-based budgeting in education, health care and public safety.

State government must demonstrate to Oregonians that they are getting the best return for their taxpayer dollars; that our agencies are being run efficiently and effectively.

This isn’t the stuff that is likely to make headlines. But it’s one of the most important things I as your Governor will do.

The third element of my blueprint is to invest in education so every Oregon child has the opportunity to succeed.

Earlier today, I shared in detail my vision for a seamless system of education from cradle to career. I also announced a new education innovation officer dedicated to improving our – currently dismal – high school graduation rate.

But a child living in poverty is challenged to succeed. Last year, 20,000 children in Oregon’s K-12 system were homeless. Twenty thousand.

Imagine trying to learn without a dry place to sleep, eat and do homework. Children cannot succeed in school if their lives out of school are in total chaos.

Take Melissa for example. Melissa, has been serving low-income families as a dedicated program manager at the Department of Human Services for more than a decade. She and her sibling had been raised by a single mother and grew up as welfare recipients. She was on the same path as her mother – having kids very young and dropping out of high school. When she tried to go back and finish her GED, she and her husband realized they couldn’t do it alone, and turned to public assistance.

Critical programs such as SNAP and medical benefits helped provide the stability she needed while she completed her high-school equivalency degree, then her bachelor's degree. Just recently, Melissa completed her master's degree in management.

High-quality public education – combined with other appropriate support, as needed – is the best way to achieve the Oregon Business plan’s goal of reducing the number of people living in poverty.

Our challenge is to provide services that empower more Oregonians to become independent and successful like Melissa!     Our challenge is to provide services that empower more Oregonians to become independent and successful like Melissa!

As I travel throughout the state, I talk to business people, including many of you in this room today.

You have told me Oregon’s future prosperity requires a strong economy, and to achieve a strong economy, we need to grow Oregon businesses. In order for businesses to grow and expand, you say, we need better schools, more affordable colleges and universities, better roads and bridges, less congestion. We need a skilled workforce that can compete in a global economy.

I hear you, and I agree with you. In fact, we agree on the needs, the priorities, and the timeline for these investments. But we still need to solve the resources question.

As one Oregonian aptly pointed out, when there’s an economic downturn, we say we cannot address adequate funding for essential services because the economy is weak. And then, when the economy recovers, we don’t address adequate funding for essential services because we currently have the resources.

We need to quit arguing about whether the glass is half full or half empty – and instead acknowledge that there’s not quite enough water to go around.

Economic growth is important. But we cannot count on economic growth alone to fund the public education system our children need and deserve.

After two decades of Measure 5 and Measure 50 — exacerbated by economic downturns and the Great Recession of the past five years, we have not been able to sustain meaningful investments in education. We still lack stable and adequate revenue for what I know is a high priority for all of us.

Looking around the room, I see business people, educators, people involved in non-profit enterprise, representatives of federal, state and local governments, women and men, Republicans and Democrats from communities both urban and rural. And here we are: all focused on the future of our beloved state.

When like-minded Oregonians roll up their sleeves and work together to get things done, this is what we call “The Oregon Way.” The Oregon Way engages all stakeholders in developing a shared vision, and empowers us to make our vision real.

My three-part blueprint for getting Oregon back on track aligns with Oregon Business Plan’s goals and priorities. It presents a clear vision for Oregon’s future that makes government more accountable; invests in innovation and infrastructure to grow the economy; and prioritizes education so every Oregon child has the opportunity to succeed.

Now is the time to join forces and bring to life this vision – our vision – for a thriving Oregon.

Thank you.