REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Business for a Better Portland - 2nd Annual Builder Dinner
January 24, 2019
Thank you all.
It’s fantastic to be here tonight. I am inspired by the energy in this room.
I have enjoyed watching Business for a Better Portland grow as a coalition of business leaders dedicated to improving the city that they live in.
I’m hoping you can carve out a little bit of your time to help your home state out, too.
Because we have a lot of work ahead of us.
Our state is growing faster than at any point in Oregon history. With growth comes a lot of really good things. More jobs. More ideas. And hopefully, more opportunities.
At the same time, not everyone is experiencing this prosperity.
Across Oregon, communities large and small are struggling with homelessness. This crisis is playing out daily on our streets — and on our sidewalks.
For many families, the cost of housing, health care, child care, and higher education are all outpacing wage growth.
And all of this is against the backdrop of a federal government that has never been in more disarray. Now is the time to put our state on a better path forward.
Last week the Oregon Legislature convened and in front of us is a very ambitious agenda.
We will expand access to healthcare for nearly every Oregon and stabilize funding for the Oregon Health Plan.
We will invest $400 million in housing solutions for families, children and veterans statewide.
We will pass our clean energy jobs bill, ensuring that our state meets our carbon emission goals so our children inherit an Oregon as beautiful and bountiful as the one we enjoy today.
And we will pass an education investment package that restores our school year, reduces class sizes, ensures every high school student has access to job training and CTE classes, and prepares an additional 10,000 kids for kindergarten.
At the same time, we will attract, train, and retain the best teachers in the country and keep tuition affordable and open the doors to higher education.
That’s a pretty big agenda for a six-month session. And that’s where you come in.
If we are going to turn the corner and put Oregon on a better path, we will need to work together.
The Oregon way is to work across the aisle and around the state. It requires us to come together around a shared vision. And it requires us to work together to defend our shared Oregon values.
As business leaders, your voices are key.
Whether your business changes our streetscape by operating a storefront, changes the way we work or play by building new technologies or has grown large enough to change our state’s economy -- you help define the Oregon experience.
So when you stand up and say we need to take action, people listen.
I know many of you in this room have experienced this positive change directly. Perhaps in previous legislative sessions. Certainly here locally in Portland where Business for a Better Portland has done a lot of good already.
And I believe, since you’re here tonight, you agree that good business and the common good go hand in hand.
So I’m here tonight to ask you to get involved with this legislative session because our state needs your help.
Whether it’s supporting healthcare, housing, the environment or education, your voices matter in Salem.
Each of you can tell a story about how the work lawmakers do in Salem can support the community you call home and in turn support your business.
For example, putting our schools on a better path isn’t just about helping teachers and students, it’s about helping our state compete in a global economy.
At one time, every Oregonian was proud of our education system. It was a promise that if you chose to put down roots in Oregon, your children would receive a world-class education and have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. But over the past couple of decades, we have failed to deliver on that promise.
We have not significantly increased per pupil spending 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 taxes.
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’s going to take more than just additional funding to bring our schools back to a level we can be proud of.
We have failed our students of color and we have left rural Oregon behind. Now is the time to close that opportunity gap.
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.
But we have an opportunity this session to pay for the repairs we need and ensure that Oregon can remain a shining beacon of hope.
What’s happening with the federal government shows us what not to do, but it also reminds us that it’s up to us to take bold action.
I think Business for a Better Portland has proven that business leaders can lead that charge.
I hope you’ll join me in Salem this session as we take bold action to build a better Oregon.