Oregon State of the State Address 2006

PORTLAND, Ore., Feb 24 - Following is the text of Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski's 2006 state of the state address as prepared:

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Thank you, Doug, for your introduction, and for once again making the City Club of Portland available to me as a forum for talking about our progress over the last three years – and where I will lead Oregon from here.

This is my fourth address to you since becoming Governor.  I like coming here because this hotel is part of Oregon’s rich cultural landscape – and a reminder that while the state of our economy is a tide that ebbs and flows, our state of mind about the greatness of Oregon never changes.
This state of mind is about our livability and connection to the land.  It is about our sense of independence.  It is about our belief that communities matter – and that individuals can make a difference.  That is why pioneers traveled the Oregon Trail.  They had a dream – and they knew the place to fulfill that dream was here.
Much has changed in two centuries.  But people are still drawn to Oregon as a place to start – or start over.  To find a better – and more meaningful – way to live.  To welcome the future.  This is the Oregon Dream – and it is as clear, bold, and permanent as Crater Lake.
So I’m not here to make the case that there is no better place to live than Oregon.  We know that already.  Today is about the state of the state, and that can be summed up in one word: Progress. 
Progress is what every Oregon family hopes for every day.  Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Progress is accomplished by the person who does things.” And together, we have done things, things that have improved the lives of thousands of Oregon families.  So today I say to you:  The heartbeat of our state is stronger – and hope burns brighter.  Oregon is back!
But the progress we’ve made hasn’t come without difficult choices. Let me take a moment and remind you of the state of our  state three years ago – when I took office.  At that time, Oregon was mired in the worst economic slump in almost 30 years.  In the tsunami of that recession, Oregon lost nearly one-fourth of its state revenue. Billions of dollars simply disappeared. We waded through five special sessions of the legislature, trying to balance the ever-shrinking budget.
Thousands of our citizens were losing their jobs, and Oregon’s unemployment rate was over 8.5-percent – the highest of any state in the country.  We were first in the nation in hunger.  And first in the nation in cutbacks to public education and health care.
Yes, when I took office, we made cuts to balance the budget. We had no other choice.  These cuts were difficult.  Some were heartbreaking – everyone sacrificed.  Especially our state employees who made real personal sacrifices, and helped us get through the crisis.
Today, the crisis is over and the wind is at our backs.  We’re making progress and moving forward.  Still, no one understands better than me that Oregon’s rising economic tide has not lifted all boats.  Many Oregonians feel great uncertainty and insecurity – despite our growing economy. 
Although Oregon’s unemployment rate is down to 5.7-percent; new jobs are being created; and more people are back at work, many of our fellow citizens are worried.  Worried whether they’ll have a job next week or next year.  Worried whether they’ll be able to get through the next medical crisis.  Worried whether they’ll be able to retire with a pension.  And worried whether they’ll be able to see their children do better than they have done.
I want to speak directly to everyone in Oregon who feels this sense of uncertainty and insecurity.  You might be a mill worker whose plant has shut down.  You might be a worker whose job has been shipped overseas.  You might be a small businessperson whose health care costs are killing your bottom line.  You might be a part-time employee who wants a full time job.  You might be a single parent trying to raise children on a minimum wage salary. 
To each of you I say:  The economic numbers say we’re recovering.  But you are more than a number to me.  So until you recover – I will not rest.  I will never be satisfied.  I will not stop fighting until you stop worrying about your economic future.
I recapped where we were three years ago.  Now let me trace the path of our progress to building the Oregon Dream.  Together, we’ve built five pillars of progress – economic prosperity, health care, public safety, environmental responsibility, and education.  First, let me talk about jobs and growing the economy.  The turnaround we’ve experienced didn’t just happen on its own. 
Since 2003, we’ve reduced our unemployment rate more than twice as much as the rest of the country.  Our job growth is now the 5th fastest in the nation.  In the last three years, we created more than 100,000 new jobs, and our non-farm payroll grew by more than 3-percent – double the national average. 
This job growth is in every region of the state – and in every sector of the economy.  We have more jobs in Oregon today than at any time in our history.  And we’re on target to add another quarter-million jobs over the next ten years.  Even manufacturing in Oregon – which took a terrible hit because so much of our manufacturing base is high tech – has regained almost half of the jobs it lost.
Clearly we’re doing things right.  We are making progress.
But the job numbers are only part of the story.  In addition to making it easier for businesses to create jobs, we’ve also invested in public works projects.  In doing so, we improved our public infrastructure, made it more attractive for businesses to relocate or stay here, and directly created even more jobs.
Investment in our public transportation infrastructure had been stymied in the Oregon Legislature for over 10 years when I took office.  In 2003, we passed an unprecedented transportation plan to repair Oregon’s roads and bridges.  It was the largest public works project in Oregon’s history creating – almost 9,000 new jobs.  These are good jobs that pay decent wages, and allow people to educate their children, buy health insurance, and put something away for a rainy day or retirement. 
Over the rest of this decade, my transportation plan will create an additional 5,000 jobs each year.  There’s more in the pipeline, too.  Last year, we passed ConnectOregon – a landmark investment in our rail, port and aviation infrastructure that will create over 1,500 jobs.  We also invested a record 500-million dollars in capital construction at Oregon’s community colleges and public universities, creating more than 8000 construction jobs.
But while jobs are the single most important determinant of economic progress, other things matter too.  In the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”
Here too, we’ve made progress.  In only three years, we’ve gone from being first in the nation in hunger to 19th.  So when it comes to the prosperity of our families – all of our families – there is no doubt we are making progress.
You can also see Oregon’s progress in the development of high technology – where we are now a world leader.  Intel is our largest private employer, and develops more patents from its operations in Oregon than any other Intel facility in the world.  In addition, Oregon is consistently among the top ten states for being awarded patents.
But high tech is only the beginning.   On one measure of economic leadership after another – Oregon is moving up the charts.  Last year, the total value of Oregon exports was the highest in the state’s history.  Hollywood is once again interested in making films in Oregon because of the new incentive programs we created.  During the recession, we protected Oregon’s cultural legacy.  Today, art and culture are thriving – and are a critical asset to our economy.  2005 was a banner year for tourism in Oregon.  Tourism added 7.5 billion dollars to our economy – an increase of more than 7-percent in one year. 
These are just some of the many signs of Oregon’s economic progress that justify my optimism – and long-held belief in the power of hope.  Our economy is rebounding.  Oregon businesses are hiring and expanding.  Jobs are coming back.   
While we’re adding jobs – and our economy is recovering –  health care remains an overriding concern for families and businesses.  Quality health care is a basic necessity, every bit as essential as food and housing.  Yet, every day, thousands of Oregonians – many with full time jobs or a career history decades long – are forced to go without needed health care. 
 This is an issue that affects every Oregonian. Over the past three years, I’ve been committed to providing access to health care, especially for children and seniors.  We created a Children’s Group Insurance Plan, making health coverage more affordable for many small employers by allowing them to pool together their purchasing power.  We increased the number of low-income families eligible for state and federal children’s health care programs. 
We expanded Oregon School-Based Health Centers to five more counties, increasing the number of children who receive health care through this program to 25,000.  We created the Oregon Prescription Drug Program, which makes cheaper prescription drugs available to older low income Oregonians.   And last month, we took emergency action to address the problems created by the federal government’s prescription drug program, which had denied prescription drug benefits to nearly 10,000 Oregon seniors.  There’s more that we have to do to make health care affordable, but we have made progress, and thousands of Oregon families benefit from that progress every day.
While, we’re expanding the availability of legal drugs, we’re also fighting Oregon’s most dangerous illegal drug – meth.  Last year, I led the effort to make sure Oregon had the toughest anti-meth laws in the country.  Other states are now following our lead.  Recently, a UCLA researcher said that Oregon is 5 to 7 years ahead of California in fighting meth.
The days when meth users could simply walk into an Oregon drug store and purchase the main ingredient of meth – right off the shelf – are over.  Today, the number of small meth labs in Oregon – the kind that are set up in basements and threaten children and neighborhoods – have been cut by over 70-percent.  So whether meth traffickers are hiding in basements – or outside our nation’s borders – we will not stop our relentless pursuit of them.
The final victory against meth in Oregon has not yet been won.  But I’ve been more aggressive in fighting meth than any other governor in America.  I want you to know – that will not change.
President Kennedy once said “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”  That means everything we accomplish – and everything we can accomplish – starts with the quality of our education system.
Creating a high quality education system takes more than having enough resources.  But let’s be honest – it can’t be done without enough resources.  Since I’ve been Governor, we’ve put more General Fund money in Head Start, and now serve 60-percent of eligible three and four-year-olds.  Last year we increased the K through 12 budget by 8-percent.  And we’re making it easier for high school juniors and seniors to also take community college courses – and for post-secondary students to transfer credits from one Oregon school to another.
But transferring those credits will be impossible if Oregon students are being priced out of the educational marketplace.  That’s why I doubled the amount of money available to students to offset their tuition expenses.  At the same time we capped community college and university tuition at 3-percent.  Every – and I mean every – graduate from an Oregon high school who qualifies on the basis of need and wants to go to an Oregon community college or university will get financial help from the state.  Also, this coming year, part-time students will be eligible for a tuition grant.
I will have more to say about our educational system in a few moments.  But first, let me state what everyone in Oregon believes: Building the Oregon Dream also means preserving for future generations the abundance and beauty of our state.  That’s why I will keep leading this state in the direction of more protection for our environment – not less.
I made restoring the Willamette River my number one priority for the environment.  I directed the state motor pool to increase their use of biodiesel and ethanol, and to purchase more hybrid vehicles.  I demanded new restrictions on tailpipe emissions – creating a clean car corridor along the entire west coast.  And I will never – I repeat never – allow Oregon to become a federally run laboratory for dangerous policies that turn back the clock on our environmental legacy.
My message to the federal administration is this:  You’re wrong on salmon recovery.  You’re wrong on roadless areas.  You’re wrong on the sale of public land.  You’re wrong on global warming.  You’re wrong on offshore drilling on the outer-continental shelf.  And – for good measure – you’re wrong that conservation is nothing more than a “personal virtue.”
We don’t need more drilling and extraction in environmentally sensitive areas.  We need alternative renewable energy, tougher fuel-efficiency standards, and an ocean conservation strategy that protects and preserves Oregon’s coast to the edge of the outer continental shelf – a strategy that sustains, not diminishes, our coastal communities.
Conservation is the most cost-effective way to cut greenhouse gases, cut our dependence on foreign oil, and cut the cost of doing business.  It is not a personal virtue.  It is a national necessity.
Now, I want to talk about the future – and where I will lead Oregon over the next five years.
Why do I believe so strongly that creating living-wage jobs is essential to strengthening the Oregon Dream?  Because it’s personal to me.  I know from my days as a steelworker that with a job comes opportunity – and opportunity is what my life has always been about.  Every day I count my blessings for the opportunities I’ve been given.  Catholic nuns in a boys’ home raised me.  Some people would have called me a “down-on-his-luck kid.”
But in three respects I was luckier than I – or almost anyone else – realized.  First – the nuns who raised me taught me three valuable lessons:  Don’t be judgmental of others.  Treat people with dignity and respect.  And never forget where you came from.  Second, the bar was set pretty low.  Growing up, I don’t remember anyone saying, “Teddy, I expect great things from you.”   And third – a handful of adults, some inspired teachers, and – yes, the G.I. Bill opened doors for me.  Doors I couldn’t have opened by myself.
I didn’t make it on my own.  No one does.  But I wasn’t handed success either.  I was handed the opportunity for success – and with it the chance to go as far as my talent and drive would take me.  I want the opportunity that was given to me to be given to every Oregon child.  That means no matter where an Oregon child comes from – he or she will have the same opportunity, to walk up and toe the same starting line, and run the same race – as everyone else. 
Put another way:  Where Oregon kids finish is up to them.  They have to earn what they achieve.  But where they begin is up to us.
Let me repeat what I said a moment ago:  No one makes it alone.  We need to lift each other up.  And when we’re faced with difficult challenges – we need to find solutions that cross party lines, cross regional boundaries, and cross generations.  That’s what I have done since becoming Governor – and will continue to do. 
Three years ago, nothing was more important than getting our economy back on track.  Without a strong and growing economy we have no way to fund the vital services that the people of Oregon want and deserve.  When state revenue dropped from 12-billion to 9-billion there were only two ways to replace that revenue:  Taxes – to which a majority of citizens – on two separate occasions during my administration – said no!  Or economic growth and job creation – which are now breathing life into our economy – and increasing state revenue.
We’re not out of the woods.  Revenue is still tight and many critical public services are still under-funded.  But because thousands more Oregonians are working – and thousands more Oregon businesses have a healthy bottom line, we have the ability to restore vital services.  Not just until the next recession.  But permanently.
Let me start with education.  I mentioned the opportunities I’ve been given in life.  None were more important than education.  From teachers in grade school – to professors in law school –  I’m standing in front of you because they stood behind me.
Now it’s our turn to create an education system that moves Oregonians seamlessly from pre-K/Head Start to K through 12, to post-secondary institutions, to workforce training – and retraining.  I’ve called this continuum – the Education Enterprise.  But since I’m asking for big changes in the way we manage and fund education in Oregon – let me offer another way to think about my plans for education. 
Remember when you were in school and were given story problems in arithmetic class?  Here’s a problem: You go to Union Station and see five railroad cars that say “education.”  Each car has its own budget, its own mission, its own advocacy groups, its own engineer, its own data and record keeping – and its own track.  And to make matters worse – the railroad car marked “K through 12” comes in 198 separate pieces, just like the 198 separate school districts in Oregon.
The question is:  Is this any way to run a railroad?  You and I know the answer is no.  The rail cars need to be coupled together, pulled by a powerful engine, and put on one track heading toward one destination.  The same is true for education in Oregon.  The parts of the system need to be linked, given the same mission, budgeted and managed as one enterprise, and pulled with strength and stability by a smart budget plan – and the powerful engine of economic growth.
The powerful engine of economic growth is here.  What’s been missing is the smart budget plan.  That’s why in January I will propose to the Legislature a new plan for funding education.  Under my plan, 61-percent of the General Fund will be dedicated to pre-K, K through 12 and post-secondary education every biennium, and pre-K, K through 12, community colleges and universities will each be guaranteed a minimum 10-percent increase in funding every biennium.  My plan also includes the creation of a stability fund, so we have money put aside the next time we’re hit with a recession.
Let me explain in hard dollars what the 10-percent commitment means for teachers, parents and children.  In the current biennium, the state’s direct dollar investment in K through 12 is $5.318-billion.  In the 07-09 biennium, that investment will grow to $5.850-billion.  This is a billion-dollar increase in K through 12 state funding since I became governor.  In other words, for the first time, starting next year, teachers and administrators will be able to plan for the future with stability and a clear picture of their long-term funding.
If my Education Enterprise funding plan is adopted by the Legislature, we will once again be above the national average for per student funding at the end of the 07-09 biennium.  We have never had a plan that looks at education-funding over the long term.   Now we will.
If the Legislature adopts my plan – and stops budgeting the way we currently do by bouncing from year to year with no clear idea of what the bottom line is – the disaster of five special sessions will be a thing of the past.  Yes!  The nightmare of lost school days, dropped programs, bulging classrooms, and national ridicule – will be over.  Forever!
Nobody wants adequate and stable funding for our public schools more than I do.  But if we only focus on K through 12 – we’ll end up repairing the railroad tracks immediately ahead of us, while ignoring the two broken trestles down the track and around the bend.
The first trestle is post-secondary education.  I want our public and private universities – and our community colleges – to compete with any in the country.  That’s how we will keep our smartest young people in Oregon – and build a dynamic economy that produces the best and sells the most.
So we have to keep investing in post-secondary education – through public-private partnerships, new research facilities, and a permanent endowment to help Oregon students cover the cost of their education – and to make up for the decades-long disinvestment in higher education in Oregon.
The second broken trestle that we face is the dangerous mismatch between the outdated skills many Oregon workers possess – and the updated skills many Oregon employers are looking for.  Repairing the skills gap is the only way we will build the Oregon Dream – because it is the only way we can keep our best young minds and strongest young hands in Oregon, while creating family wage jobs and long-term economic growth.
Remember, less than one-third of Oregonians have a four-year degree.  And many high school graduates are not looking for a college degree.  They want a marketable skill that will lead to a high-wage job.  I can’t say this enough:  To keep Oregon competitive in the global economy, we must have engineers and electricians; scientists and technicians; inventors and builders. 
That is why, with help from our labor and business partners, I created Oregon’s first Manufacturing Workforce Strategy – and invested 1-million dollars to get the strategy off the ground.  Our focus is to provide Oregonians with the skills they need to find the jobs they want.  This issue is not going away.  And neither is my determination to align the job goals of our workers with the job opportunities of tomorrow.
Now let me tell you about an issue that is going away – because we’re going to solve it:  Uninsured children.  Today, more than 117,000 Oregon children under the age of 19 do not have health insurance.  This is unacceptable! 
Uninsured children are three times more likely to use expensive emergency room care – and are far less likely to visit a primary care provider.  To make matters worse, almost half of Oregon’s 117,000 uninsured children are eligible for publicly funded health care programs – but they’re not enrolled.  My Healthy Kids Plan is going to change all this.
The plan will be guided by these fundamentals:  All Oregon children are eligible for coverage under the Healthy Kids Plan, which will include dental and mental health benefits.  Working families who can’t afford insurance will either be eligible or will be able to buy low cost coverage for their kids.  I will encourage employers who already cover the children of their workers to continue that coverage. 
Nothing will alter this fact:  If you’re the parent of uninsured children you will soon have one less thing to worry about – because your children will be insured under my Healthy Kids Plan. 
Now let’s talk about cost. 
The total cost of covering 117,000 children will be about $110 million for the state.  But with this spending, we leverage some additional $200 million from the federal government.  Where will this money come from?  I will propose to the Legislature a cigarette tax increase to cover the state’s share of the new Healthy Kids Plan.
Insuring all children is a critical first step toward reducing the number of uninsured Oregonians.  But this is not the last step.  Over the next year – at my direction – various health care agencies will do research and make recommendations for creating an affordable and sustainable health care system for all Oregonians.
Although I believe that the health-care decisions coming from our federal partner are economically shortsighted – and just plain wrong – they will not stop me from ensuring that all of our kids have access to health care, or from providing health care for every working Oregonian. 
Let me speak to you about one last issue, which is very important to me, to you, and to the state of Oregon.  In the President’s state of the union speech, he said our nation is addicted to oil.  He’s right.  Unfortunately, he had little to say about how his administration intends to break this addiction.
I refuse to wait.  In Oregon, we’re going to move ahead with reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency and cutting greenhouse gasses.  Global warming is not junk science.  Junk science is the denial of global warming.  We have already taken major steps to combat global warming and develop renewable energy sources.  I call this – intelligent redesign.
I’ve asked the Department of Environmental Quality to identify steps we can take to improve air quality and visibility in the Columbia Gorge.  I’m going to press the private sector to do their part – and next month I’ll be meeting with Washington Governor Gregoire to come up with bi-state solutions to protecting our common air-shed.  I will also propose a major energy independence package to the next Legislature.
Last year the Legislature refused to adopt a proposal to jumpstart biodiesel, ethanol, and forest biomass markets in Oregon.  This can’t happen again.  The Legislature must join me in making Oregon a world leader in alternative fuels.  That includes passage of a renewable portfolio standard that will result in 25-percent of our energy coming from renewable sources by 2025.
At the same time, I will propose new credits and incentives to encourage investment in alternative and renewable energy projects.  If we cannot convince the federal administration of the value of an alternative and renewable energy portfolio standard as part of a national policy of energy independence for America, Oregonians will do what we always have done:  Roll up our sleeves, do it ourselves, and be a beacon for the rest of the country.
I began my remarks by saying that the state of our state can be summed up with the word “progress” – and by reminding you that the Oregon Dream of livability and connection to the land is a permanent as Crater Lake.
These are not separate ideas.  The Oregon Dream is here to stay – but so is our obligation to make progress on that Dream.  We can do that by recognizing we hold Oregon’s greatness in the palm of our hand – and by accepting our moral responsibility to give children, workers and families a helping hand.  I’m not talking about pulling everyone to the top of the ladder.  I’m talking about a hand – an opportunity – to get on the ladder.
That means more progress toward:  Investing in the Education Enterprise; training young workers and retraining older workers; access to affordable health care and prescription drugs; safe neighborhoods for children; and a healthy environment.
This is how we will strengthen the Oregon Dream:  By continuing to make progress and move forward – while preserving our legacy of independence, and our belief in respecting diversity; supporting communities; acknowledging that individuals can make a difference; and – most of all –  raising our children to have greater opportunity than we had.
That may no longer be the American Dream – but I promise you – it is my dream – and will forever be the Oregon Dream.            
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless Oregon.

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