REMARKS AS PREPARED
OREGON ASSN. OF NURSERIES MEETING
June 9, 2015
Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you today.
I always enjoy meeting with OAN’s members and leaders; few industries in Oregon have as strong and as well-deserved a reputation as the nurseries do for pragmatic problem-solving. You know how to build relationships and get things done, things that benefit all Oregonians as well as your businesses. You take the long view, and please know that I appreciate it.
Oregon’s nursery industry is our state’s largest agricultural sector. Your nurseries, greenhouses and related businesses employ more than 20,000 Oregonians. And nurseries also reflect the export-driven nature of Oregon’s economy, with nearly 3 out of 4 nursery products shipped out of state – to customers across the U.S. and around the globe.
I think – and I’m sure you’ll agree – that a lot of the credit for OAN’s reputation goes to Jeff Stone. Jeff – thank you for always being a good-faith partner with our office and Oregon’s state agencies. It does not go unnoticed.
As we wind down the 2015 Oregon legislative session, I want to note some major issues that OAN has helped with.
1.Funding for OSU Statewide Programs (Ag. Extension, the Forest Research Lab, and the Ag. Research Station).
After years of budget challenges, it appears that OSU’s statewide programs will fare pretty well in this session, in no small part thanks to strong support from OAN and other groups across the spectrum. Better integration of the Statewide Public Service Program and Oregon’s state agencies is an area that I intend to devote some time and energy to. The OSU programs have much to bring to the table in helping deliver services to Oregonians, and we should be making better use of those resources.
As we grapple with issues such as sage grouse conservation, marbled murrelets, pesticides, and how to improve our state’s water quality, OSU is a key in how we connect information and people to improve our economy and our environment.
I look forward to working with OAN to strengthen the relationship between government, academia and the business community
2.Funding for water resources management.
Another success story is the broad legislative support from across the political spectrum for a significant water resources funding package. We expect that support to translate into passage of all or most of my request for both loan and grant funding to help water users stretch our limited supplies to meet future water needs. The new resources will help build a program from the ground up, with local communities playing a key role in identifying both their water priorities and the best solutions. And there are resources for developing specific projects as well, in those places where water managers and users are ready to put shovels in the ground.
With drought advancing steadily on us, these resources cannot come too soon. The need for investment in our water infrastructure vastly exceeds our public resources, and so we will need to partner wisely with the private sector to leverage key investments with broad benefits. Please continue to work closely with my office as we roll out this critical program.
3.Workforce Development & Support
There are three lingering issues that are important to ensuring a talented and diverse workforce in Oregon:
(a) Paid Sick Leave: I know that one of the challenges for the nursery industry this year has been the various proposed labor-related employer requirements this session. The Legislature will pass a change in our sick-leave laws.
I know that SB 454, if it is enacted by the Legislature, will increase costs for many businesses, although it appears that the legislature will exempt business employing fewer than ten people. Please be assured that I am sensitive to cost issues for Oregon businesses. That is why I worked with the Legislature to create the Office of Small Business Assistance in the Secretary of State's office. And that is why I will carefully review legislative proposals that change labor requirements to assure that economic interests and worker protections are appropriately balanced.
(b) Education Cradle to Career: There is absolutely no question that education is the key to a better life. College graduates have greater earning power over the course of their careers, and more career options.
I am working for a seamless education system that spans birth to career. Thanks to Oregon’s burgeoning economy, we will invest a record-breaking $7.3 billion in K-12 education this biennium, including fully funding all-day kindergarten for the first time.
That said, I have separately proposed additional investments in early childhood programs and higher education, including the largest investment in community colleges since 2008. My budget also includes new investments in career technical and STEM education.
Education matters. It is the most important investment we can make in our future.
(c) Housing package: Communities throughout the
state are struggling to meet the needs of their residents. One in three households spend more than half their income on housing, leaving too little money left over for other basic necessities such as food and medicine.
Many communities are also struggling with extremely low vacancy rates – less than 1 percent in some places. If you can find a place to live, housing costs are increasing and rents are going up. At the same time, we know that people’s wages aren’t increasing at the same pace. This results in homelessness, rent burden, and housing instability.
To illustrate the current housing challenges: In Oregon, we have 45,000 rental units that are considered affordable. But we have 175,000 households of renters whose incomes qualify for those units. This shortage is unacceptable.
The good news is, we know how to overcome the challenges of housing instability and homelessness. More affordable homes. That’s why I’m proposing an investment of $100 million to bolster the state’s stock of affordable housing. This will add about 4,000 new units to meet the needs of our communities.
Today I am asking for your support. Let your senator or representative know that Oregon needs to increase affordable housing availability so that more families have opportunities to thrive, and to live in the communities in which they work.
4. Measure 91.
One other challenge that will be with us all for some time is the implementation of Measure 91.
The legislature has struggled with this issue, but more recently key leaders have shown real courage in advancing solutions that fill the gaps left in the ballot measure. I know that we will not get every aspect of Measure 91 implementation right from the get-go. Legislative work and rulemaking are going to be needed for multiple years to work through all of the challenges raised by this new law.
I am committed to the long view on this issue, and will need your continued help in developing reasonable solutions to the inevitable problems that will continue to dog Oregon as they have other states.
Finally, on the topic of transportation and the push for a comprehensive transportation-funding package this session, I want to thank you and your members for voicing your early and sincere support.
A safe and efficient transportation system underpins our entire economy. It helps your members get their goods to both the domestic and international markets; helps your workers get to their jobs and your customers to get to your nurseries; and, a well-maintained transportation grid creates a desirable quality of life that attracts and retains talented people to our state.
Looking at the near term future, however, our state faces real challenges: the State Highway Fund is already fully committed to maintenance, debt service, and agency operations, leaving nothing left for new projects; and, due to federal inaction and Congressional gridlock, investments from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which represents about a quarter of ODOT’s budget, remain uncertain.
The goal for a comprehensive transportation-funding package is three-fold:
- First, we need the resources to preserve and maintain the tens of billions of dollars in existing transportation assets.
- Second, we must begin to address vulnerabilities of the state’s transportation system and its economy to a major earthquake. Investing now in a more resilient transportation system by retrofitting bridges and shoring up landslides would allow the system to bounce back quickly from a major event, reducing the economic impact substantially;
- And third, Oregon must provide stable funding for multimodal transportation options and connections that foster prosperity, enhance mobility, improve safety and preserve livability. While the ConnectOregon program and General Funds have provided needed infusions of multimodal funding, they are not sustainable.
In closing, let me say one more time: thank you for your partnership and your leadership. On many issues, over many sessions, OAN has consistently demonstrated a common-sense approach to serving the common good.
I look forward to the nursery industry’s continued leadership and innovations.
And with that, let’s jump into Q&A.