The first step on Oregon's path to a better future PDF Print E-mail

Original Source | The Oregonian
By Governor John Kitzhaber, Tuesday February 1, 2011

kitzhaberWe have an opportunity, this year, to set Oregon on a course to a bright future.

Oregon's budget shortfall represents an opportunity to change and improve the way the state does business. We cannot rely on the ways we have done things in the past, even though they are familiar to us.

The balanced budget I'm delivering today breaks decisively with the past and confronts the hard budget and spending choices that have been avoided or masked by one-time funding.

It will require cuts to public services that are important to all Oregonians -- including education and health care -- but I know we can use this moment to lay the foundation for a stable, sustainable future.

I have included ideas advocated by both Democrats and Republicans because Oregon's success depends on a willingness to develop new partnerships and coalitions and move beyond the partisan divisions of the past.

If we make smart choices today, we can put Oregon on a new path -- one that will make our economy stronger, our people healthier and our children better educated.

Let me highlight a few key priorities:

Getting Oregonians back to work: For the 200,000 Oregonians who are out of work, finding a job is their top priority. Our government can and must lead the effort to create jobs in Oregon and attract new businesses to our state. My budget funds proven job-creation programs to get Oregonians back to work in the short-term, while investing in early childhood success to achieve Oregon 's long-term educational and economic goals. The Oregon Innovation Council is one such program, creating more than 600 jobs in the last two years by converting university research into market-ready products.

Investing in early childhood success:
Today, Oregon spends approximately $380 million per year on services for children from birth to 5 years old, not including health care, K-12 schooling and other human services. Oregonians can and should expect a return on this investment.

My budget unifies disparate programs, streamlines administrative costs and measures outcomes to ensure that every child enters school ready and able to learn, enters first grade ready to read and leaves first grade reading.

The Early Childhood Council is the first step toward to a 0-20 education system that is integrated, efficient and transparent. Our current education funding process is not sustainable and requires a new approach to deliver better results for students, more resources for teachers and better value for taxpayers.

Reform Oregon's health care system:
The Oregon Health Plan and long-term care services are profoundly impacted by the loss of one-time federal stimulus revenue. Unlike other states, we are not going to respond to this crisis by simply dropping Oregonians from coverage, forcing them to seek care in the emergency department, thus shifting even greater costs to the state.

Instead, we are going to have to share some sacrifice together in the first year through reduction in benefits and provider payments -- while building a platform to transform our health care delivery system in the second year of the biennium to lower cost through integration of services, incentives for prevention, and community-based management of chronic conditions

Toward a better Oregon: None of this will be easy, but we must seize this opportunity to shift state spending from addressing problems after they have developed to preventing them in the first place. We share a long-term vision for Oregon: to rebuild a state where our children are ready to learn before they get to school; where they have the resources and attention to learn and our teachers have the time and support to teach; where dropout rates are falling and graduation rates are rising; and where the average per capita income exceeds the national average in every region of our state.

Together we can take an important first step toward that vision. I ask all Oregonians to join me in this effort.

John Kitzhaber is governor of Oregon.


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