The Blue Mountain eagle. (John Day, Or.) 1972-current, February 07, 2018, Page A11, Image 11

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Blue Mountain Eagle
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
State-of-the-state focuses on inclusive economy
By Paris Achen
Capital Bureau
Gov. Kate Brown dedi-
cated her state-of-the-state
speech Monday to addressing
the issue of Oregonians who
have been left behind by the
state’s economic prosperity
and steady job growth.
“Oregon’s rising econom-
ic tide should be lifting all
boats. Yet many hardworking
families are still under water,”
Brown said.
While some Oregonians
are working two jobs to get by,
state economists are projecting
27,000 high-wage job open-
ings each year through 2024,
many of which will occur in
the technology industry. Cur-
rently, one out of every four
job openings in that industry
is filled by out-of-state hires,
she said.
“It is clear there is a gap
between the skills Oregon’s
workers have and the skills
that our growing businesses
need,” Brown said.
She announced that she
would launch a new program
designed to provide job and
skill training to help fill the
gap. Dubbed “Future Ready
Oregon,” the program’s goal
is to “close the skills gap be-
tween the workforce we have
and the workforce we need to
fuel Oregon’s economy,” she
The program would ear-
mark $300 million to career
technical education class-
es in the 2019-2021 state
budget. Without providing
details, Brown said the pro-
gram would make hands-on
learning programs available
at every public school district
in the state. The program also
would offer apprenticeships
in high-needs industries such
as information technology,
health care, advanced wood
manufacturing and high-tech
manufacturing. Such pro-
grams already exists in Bend
and Eugene, she said.
Pamplin Media Group/Jaime Valdez
Gov. Kate Brown Monday delivers her state of the state
address opening the Legislature’s 35-day session.
The plan includes leg-
islation to help mid-career
construction professionals to
start their business by among
other things, waiving all state
fees and formal education re-
quirements for those who have
worked in construction for at
least eight years.
She said she is directing
Business Oregon to invest in
rural areas, communities of
color and Oregon’s nine tribes.
An example of such an in-
vestment is state funding of
broadband and infrastructure
to increase competitiveness in
rural industries, she said.
Her plan also involves
directing the Higher Educa-
tion Coordinating Commis-
sion and Business Oregon to
collaborate to match high-
growth industries with job
training programs.
In addition to job training,
she said the state needs to con-
tinue to address the high cost
of housing.
Her office is scheduled to
announce several pilot pro-
grams in the coming weeks
to address the state’s hous-
ing shortage and high cost of
Brown delivered the speech
in the House of Representa-
tives at the Oregon State Cap-
itol, and footage was streamed
live on the Oregon Legisla-
ture’s website.
The address kicked off the
79th Legislative Assembly and
a 35-day policymaking ses-
This month marks three
years since Brown, previous-
ly the secretary of state, suc-
ceeded Gov. John Kitzhaber,
who resigned amid an influ-
ence-peddling scandal, and
her first anniversary as elected
governor. She is seeking re-
election later this year, having
almost completed the remain-
der of Kitzhaber’s term.
A pressing issue this ses-
sion is adjusting the state bud-
get to account for a projected
$280 million in unrealized tax
revenue due to recent federal
tax reform.
A week before session
commenced, leaders in the
Senate extinguished most hope
of passing a state “cap and in-
vest” program for industry this
year, which is a policy priority
for House Democrats and has
the support of the governor.
Senate Majority Leader Ginny
Burdick, D-Portland, said that
such a complex policy was
better suited for the Legisla-
ture’s longer session in 2019.
The program would charge
industry for releasing green-
house gases and invest the pro-
ceeds into projects intended to
curtail global warming.
Since 2010, the Legisla-
ture has convened for 35 days
in even years and for 160 in
odd years.
Leadership differs on scope of legislative session
By Claire Withycombe
Capital Bureau
Oregon’s legislative leaders
appear to differ as to what can
be accomplished during the
upcoming legislative session.
House Democrats have un-
veiled a slew of policy ideas,
although Republicans and
both parties in the Senate ex-
pressed trepidation about try-
ing to do too much when the
Oregon Legislative Assembly
convened for its short session
Feb. 5.
In even-numbered years,
the Legislature meets for
sessions that can last up to
35 days. In odd-numbered
years, they meet for about five
months to hammer out the
state’s two-year budget.
Leaders of the party cau-
cuses in the House and Senate,
as well as Oregon Gov. Kate
Brown, took questions from
reporters at the state capitol
Jan. 29.
Senate President Peter
Courtney, D-Salem, said he
expected to be “sweating
rocks,” due to the swift dead-
lines during the short session.
Legislators have to move
quickly if they want bills to
move out of policy committees
and to the floors of each cham-
ber for a vote.
“My biggest concern is ...
to try to get through the ses-
sion without doing harm to
things we want to do long-
term,” Courtney said. “... Al-
ready the expectations are well
beyond what you can do in a
35-day session.”
Senate Majority Leader
Ginny Burdick, D-Portland,
said that the short session
would be largely focused on
the state budget.
“The purpose of the short
session is to deal with budget
matters and urgent matters
that can’t wait until the long
session,” Burdick said, add-
ing that voters’ affirmation of
a state funding package for
public health care in a special
election Jan. 23 makes the task
less burdensome. “We had an
easier job than we might have
had if Ballot Measure 101 had
not passed.”
Burdick said that educa-
tion is a “top priority,” as leg-
islators come together on a bi-
cameral, bipartisan committee
aimed at improving student
outcomes and soliciting feed-
back from Oregonians about
the state’s public education
Senate Republican Leader
Jackie Winters, of Salem, new-
ly appointed to lead the cau-
cus, said she hopes for a “bi-
partisan atmosphere” during
the session.
Winters said she is priori-
tizing a bill that would expand
protections for whistleblow-
ers, and is also focused on bills
that address collective bargain-
ing and government spending.
House Democrats released
a set of policy priorities that
included boosting consumer
protections, gun safety and
affordable housing; reducing
class sizes in public schools
and expanding career and
technical training.
They also want to revise the
state’s constitution to include
health care as a basic right.
House Minority Lead-
er Mike McLane, R-Powell
Butte, called House Demo-
crats’ priorities “ambitious”
and “aggressive,” saying they
were geared more toward the
November election — includ-
ing an effort to make health
care a right in the state’s con-
House Majority Leader
Jennifer Williamson, D-Port-
land, said she understands the
language in the bill, cham-
pioned by State Rep. Mitch
Greenlick, D-Portland, which
refers the issue to voters, to be
“My understanding is
(Greenlick’s) goal is not to set
up a right of action but to set
up an aspirational goal,” Wil-
liamson said.
McLane disagreed, saying
the measure “may be aspira-
tional in how it’s marketed,
but it is absolutely functional
in the leverage that they’re
seeking to dictate public fund-
ing, so we have to talk about
“The question becomes,
what’s the purpose of this,
outside the political ramifi-
cations from the 2018 cam-
paign, where Congress’ health
care discussion may give
them some leverage in swing
districts?” McLane said.
But Speaker of the House
Tina Kotek, D-Portland,
struck a more sanguine tone,
saying that she thought that
leadership on both sides of
the aisle could broker com-
promise during the course of
the short session.
the existence of some “un-
knowns” when it comes to the
effects of federal tax reform
on state revenues, as well as
the need to reconcile “larg-
er-ticket” budget holes, such
as the high cost of the 2017
fire season, which ravaged
communities from the South-
west coast to the Columbia
River Gorge.
It’s still not clear what the
precise effect of federal tax
reform will be on Oregonians
or on the state’s revenues,
although analyses by state
economists are underway. A
more complete picture of the
state’s revenue outlook is ex-
pected Feb. 16.
Gov. Brown, a Democrat
who is seeking reelection in
November, reiterated the pol-
icy priorities she introduced
several weeks ago, when leg-
islators convened for a round
of interim committee meet-
ings in early January.