REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
2021-23 Budget Launch
December 1, 2020
What a year it has been.
2020 has tested Oregon in unimaginable ways: a global pandemic, which has taken our dearest loved ones from us and forever changed the rituals of our daily lives. Heartbreaking loss from historic wildfires that ravaged our state and wiped entire Oregon communities off the map. Deepened political divisions. And the untimely deaths of Black and Brown neighbors from across the country that inspired Oregonians to march in our streets with a clarion call for racial justice.
We have been tested to the core, and the most vital needs of Oregon families — health, safety, education, housing, and the ability to earn a living — have all been challenged in new ways.
During these tough times, Oregonians have stepped up at every turn to protect their friends, families and neighbors. The compassionate spirit of our state has anchored us in what really matters: keeping each other healthy and well.
Through fires, floods, and a global pandemic, we are determined to rise and rebuild. And as we do, we must ensure an equitable future for Oregon, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and every voice is heard.
This is where my budget finds its inspiration.
The 2021-23 Governor’s Recommended Budget guides and defines Oregon’s legislative priorities. I consider it our state’s North Star.
And I believe the first step to creating opportunity is in recognizing that racism is endemic to our systems, impacting every part of our culture and our economy.
Every difficult turn of this past year has only proven this point, further exacerbating existing disparities for Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American and Tribal communities.
We’ve seen this firsthand through the pandemic’s impacts to the Warm Springs tribe and to Pacific Islanders in Union county. We’ve seen it with undocumented families, who lost their homes to wildfires.
I will fight so that all of these same communities are not left behind again.
This year, I convened the Racial Justice Council to have regular and ongoing conversations with Oregon’s communities of color.
One of the visions of the Racial Justice Council is to dismantle structural racism in Oregon state government, and by doing so, have resounding impacts on communities across our state. Working with the council on my budget, we committed to centering and uplifting the voices of these communities. Because brick by brick, through new policies and new practices backed by real investment, we can make meaningful change.
While our state’s — and our nation’s — long history of racist policies will not be deconstructed in one budget cycle, I am so very proud we have prioritized racial equity and sought to close opportunity gaps so that in the future, race will no longer predict outcomes.
Because actions matter, across my budget, I’ve found ways to make over $280 million in investments prioritized by the Racial Justice Council. This budget delivers on decisive investments to begin the process of recognizing and undoing systemic racism in Oregon, including:
● More than $10 billion to help ensure every student has access to a well-rounded education, and wrap-around services, such as nutrition support. This includes increased access to quality, affordable early childhood education for 8,000 more kids. And investments in Oregon schools, prioritizing career and technical education, and building anti-racist curriculum.
● Investments in behavioral health, informed by my Behavioral Health Advisory Council — including nearly $30 million to diversify behavioral health and medical workforces so that they better reflect the communities they serve.
● Reforms to our criminal justice system to center racial equity and deemphasize mass incarceration.
● $118 million to invest in broadband expansion statewide, with a focus on providing access to communities that have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic and ensuring every single school across Oregon is connected to the internet.
● More than $20 million to help provide a pathway to homeownership for Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American and Tribal communities, as well as adding co-op and land trust models to our system. This builds upon a $65 million increased investment over the last biennium and is part of a larger than $250 million housing package to help ensure that all Oregonians have a warm, safe, dry, affordable, and accessible place to call home.
● Roughly $7 million to reduce Oregon’s carbon emissions, and build green energy practices so that communities of color and tribal communities can access clean air and water.
● And nearly $190 million dedicated to helping rebuild communities impacted by the wildfires. This includes recovery efforts, such as debris cleanup, housing, and food assistance. But it also includes investments to help communities build back better so they can prepare for future wildfire seasons.
These are just a few highlights.
We must take the lessons we learned from the last recession, from this pandemic, and from the wildfires, and ensure that this time, no one is left behind.
Our budgets, policy agenda, and priorities reflect, support, and honor the communities who bore the brunt of the devastation this past year.
I know Oregon will recover from these turbulent times. But we can’t do any of this alone.
The pandemic has led to a state budget shortfall that will require not only scrapping plans for long-needed investments, but also making small and difficult cuts in services and programs that affect Oregonians’ lives. And while state government is maximizing the value of every taxpayer dollar, we need help.
Let me be clear. This budget doesn’t put enough money into our schools, it doesn’t make the investments in public health we need. It’s a budget built on sacrifice and hard choices. And while our state can deliver the core services that Oregonians expect us to, it doesn’t go far enough to heal the pain of 2020.
Because Oregon alone can’t do that.
We need the federal government to stand up and respond to this moment of crisis. My budget lays out a roadmap.
● Ending COVID-19 is the first step to recovery. We must have additional funding for COVID-19 testing and health services and support for the Oregon Health Plan. Fighting COVID-19 over the next year will cost us at least another $685 million. We need federal help to keep this fight up, and Medicaid funding to make sure Oregonians who have lost their jobs, don’t lose their health care as well.
● After COVID-19, the next priority is making sure this pandemic doesn’t lead to a wave of homelessness. Across the state it’s estimated that landlords and renters need $350 million in relief to make up for losses and arrears during COVID-19. Targeted support for homeowners who will struggle with future mortgage payments because of the crisis should also be included in this package.
● Oregonians laid off during the COVID-19 winter need another round of expanded unemployment insurance, and our businesses, which have sacrificed so much during this pandemic, are in need of another round of the Paycheck Protection Program to keep them afloat.
● Oregon has lost half of its child care supply as providers struggle to remain open and compliant with COVID-19 requirements, and families are unable to afford child care. Rebuilding has to start now. We need federal aid for childcare, schools, universities and community colleges that are working to reopen amid increasing challenges posed by COVID-19.
● Our cities, counties, tribal governments and courts need help overcoming the impacts of COVID-19 on their budgets.
● And every Oregonian impacted by the Labor Day fires needs a federal government willing to help them rebuild their communities.
I think it’s clear that the events of this year will forever change what 2020 hindsight means.
But we cannot be stuck looking backward. Oregon shone through our recent election, our vote-by-mail system was a model for the nation as a safe, accessible and secure way to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. I hope that as the era of political dysfunction comes to an end in Washington D.C., Oregonians from all backgrounds are ready to rebuild our state.
Together, we can build a better Oregon for everyone.