Oregon State of the State Address 2005
By Stateline Staff
PORTLAND, Oregon - - Following is the text of Gov. Ted Kulongoski's 2005 state of the state address:
Speaker Minnis, President Courtney, members of the Legislative Assembly, honored guests and fellow citizens, I am honored to be here, and proud to deliver my State of the State message on this first day of the 2005 legislative session.
Before I begin my remarks I would like to ask for a moment of silence in honor of Oregon's soldiers and Marines who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, today, our flags are lowered to half-staff for a brave Oregon soldier who has given his life for our country. We also honor the victims of the tsunami two weeks ago and in this blessed land of plenty, we remember that we are each other's keeper.
The last time we met in this beautiful House chamber I was being inaugurated, you were recovering from a record five special sessions and we were both facing one of most difficult budget climates in Oregon's history. With that sobering reminder of our recent past, let me say to each of you welcome back. The people of Oregon need you here and I do too.
Someone asked me recently what my biggest wish was for 2005. I didn't give the obvious answer: A money tree. Or the easy answer: A short legislative session. Instead, I said that I wanted 2005 to be a year of genuine bi-partisanship. That we would pledge to put people ahead of party; conciliation ahead of confrontation; and protecting our children ahead of protecting the status quo.
Throughout this session, there are going to be differences of opinion between our two parties. Between your two chambers. And between the peoples' two policymaking branches of government. There's nothing wrong with that. Debate is healthy and no one in this chamber starting with me has a monopoly on being right.
But my friends there is nothing less inspiring and more unhelpful to the citizens of Oregon than the sound of one-hand clapping. I need your hand to join my hand. That is the only way we will accomplish what the people sent us to Salem to do: Improve their lives. Protect their communities. Educate their children. And lift their spirits.
This is a new year and the right moment to report to you that the state of our state is good. We're not only back on our feet we're moving forward. The evidence is everywhere. Our economy is recovering slowly but steadily. Thousands of new jobs have been created in the last two years. And national survey after national survey point to Oregon as one of the best places to do business. Just last month, Oregon was named to an honor roll list along with only six other states for economic development. And we've been ranked in the top ten states for being business friendly highlighting our low workers' compensation rates.
So there is every reason to start this 2005 legislative session with hope. This doesn't mean we don't have problems. We do and believe me I'm not blind to them. Too many of our citizens are still hurting. They want to work but can't find a job. They need health insurance but can't afford to buy it. They believe in public education but worry that overcrowded classrooms and program cuts mean that their children won't be ready to compete in college and for jobs. We cannot ignore these real concerns. But I am an optimist at heart. Everything in my life has been about looking to the future. And I see no reason to change now.
In 2003, when unemployment was increasing and revenue was decreasing, our mission was to limit the damage to Oregon families and businesses caused by an economy tumbling downhill. Our mission for the 05-07 biennium is to shift an economy that is already on the move into high gear, and build a fiscally responsible budget that will protect vital government services and our quality of life the next time a recession strikes.
This is easier said than done. If that isn't obvious now it will be in the weeks to come. So my message is: We have a lot of work ahead of us to create jobs, grow businesses, make government more efficient and accountable, invest in our pre-K through 20 education system, fight meth and other dangers to our children, and build prosperity.
I can't do this alone, and neither can you. But as I look around this chamber and see old friends and new faces not to mention happy kids who are depending on us to do the right thing I know that if we put partisanship to the side and partnership up front we can do it together.
In the coming months, you will hold hearings and vote on bills covering everything from crime to culture to health care. But nothing we do between now and sine die will be more important than the decisions we make about the budget. The 05-07 budget will either be a tool for fiscal sanity and economic growth or it will be, as it has often been in the past a political shell game for borrowing money we don't have; emptying reserve funds we can't replace; and raising taxes that the people of Oregon, twice in one year, said they don't want.
I have already submitted my budget to you and the citizens of Oregon. I'm not going to again talk about what it funds or doesn't fund. That information is easy to find on my website. But I will say this: In preparing my budget, I threw out the old rulebook. This is not a current services budget. It funds programs based on whether they produce measurable outcomes.
This is not to say that I didn't make painful cuts in worthy programs. I did. And I've spent many sleepless nights worrying about the people affected by these cuts. But there was simply no way to avoid hard choices. As a former President once said: We have more will than wallet. The bottom line is: State government has 12-billion dollars to spend and that's it! I will not go looking for more taxes from citizens. I want Oregonians to understand this is what we can buy with the money we have.
What our citizens want is a tax code that is fair to all taxpayers. That is why I said when I released my budget, I am always prepared to review any proposal that makes the code more fair and equitable to all taxpayers.
What my 05-07 budget lacks in dollars, it makes up for in transparency, honesty and fiscal responsibility. There are no gimmicks. No borrowing to pay for ongoing operating expenses. And no shifting costs to future budgets. At the same time, my budget is constructed in a way that inherently includes a spending limitation and rainy day fund. The old way of budgeting was to put any increase in anticipated revenue into existing programs. In 2005, we need to think and act differently.
For starters, we need to think and act like the Oregon families we represent. They know they have to come up with a budget not a wish list. They know they have to make hard choices. And they know that too much debt and not enough savings is a recipe for disaster. All I'm asking is that we live by the same rules that our fellow citizens live by. That is what I've tried to do.
I spent two years making government more accountable, more cost-effective, and more consumer friendly. I created a 05-07 budget that is tied to my six core principles each of which is critical to maintaining the Oregon values we hold dear. And today, I renew my call for putting 4-percent of revenues into a rainy day fund that will protect us against a repeat of the massive headache we faced in the 01-03 biennium multiple special sessions to cut essential government services. I also want to renew my call for the creation of an investment fund for pre-K through 20 education. These two steps a rainy day fund and an education investment fund will give state government the financial stability it has lacked for years.
I believe it was a personal test of my leadership and character to get Oregon back on the budgetary straight and narrow. That means to pay as we go and to build a rainy day fund that will protect us against a sharp decline in revenue like the one we faced in 2002 and 2003. This same test of leadership and character now rests with you. The budget realities I confronted, you must confront. The need for a long-term investment in education that I recognized, you must recognize. And the line in the sand that I drew against business as usual, you must draw.
The people of Oregon do not expect miracles. But they do expect accountability and leadership. And it is our obligation to give them both. To do that we need to make sure that the 05-07 budget is fiscally responsible; that we build a strong and predictable economy; that we stand up for equality of opportunity for all of our citizens; and that we defend the Oregon way of life.
I've talked about the link between the state of our state and budget discipline. Now I want to talk about the link between the state of our state and the economy, equality, and what I see as the biggest threat to Oregon's values and sovereignty.
Growing Oregon's economy is my passion. But creating family wage jobs is my obsession. The Washington Post recently ran a story with the headline: Average-Wage Earners Fall Behind. Not only are many workers being forced to take new jobs at lower wages these jobs often come without health or pension benefits. Is this really the future we want? Thousands of hard working Oregonians losing wages and healthcare, and unable to properly care for their families or contribute to our economy. For me this is not progress. But investing in workforce training to help low-wage earners start over is progress.
When workers earn a wage that enables them to take care of themselves and their families, the majority of problems that government is asked to resolve are reduced or go away. Everything from domestic violence to hunger to health care. So as I recently told the Oregon Business Council: I am committed to helping existing businesses grow and prosper and to bring new businesses to Oregon that will create jobs here. I am committed to reducing regulatory barriers to business. I am committed to creating an economic niche for Oregon that it will have the best educated, best trained, best skilled population of any state in America. And I am committed to embracing change and facing Oregon's economic future not just with hope but with optimism and imagination.
My determination to create family wage jobs and grow Oregon's economy is not new. It's the course I've been traveling for two years and I have no intention of pulling off to the side of the road now. Instead, I want more speed. More confidence. More unity. This is how we will achieve long-term economic success in Oregon and meet the challenges that stand in the way of that success.
The first of these challenges is globalization of the market.
Many hard working Oregonians believe that the global economy is making it more difficult for them to earn a living and find financial security. And some Oregon businesses believe that the global economy is making it more difficult for them to make a profit. These concerns are not made up. Free trade is not always fair trade. But I cannot put the Genie back in the bottle. And even if I could, it would not be the right decision for Oregon. We live in a global economy. That's the reality. We can curse the night or light a candle. I say and will always say light a candle!
We are a coastal state. This gives us an enormous competitive advantage. But we must have better, cheaper and faster ways to import what we need and export what we make. That's why I'll be sending you a new transportation package called ConnectOregon, which will do for our rail, marine and aviation infrastructure what our 2003 transportation package did for Oregon's roads and bridges.
The second major economic challenge we face is ramping up the development and use of state-of-the-art technology.
I am not turning my back on traditional industries. Timber and agriculture are essential to Oregon's economy. And for many of our rural communities timber and agriculture is the economy. We need to help these traditional industries innovate their way to profitability.
But we also need to develop new industries that will do for the American economy in the 21st century what computers did in the closing decades of the 20th century. I want Oregon to be a world leader in this kind of innovation. That's why I created the Oregon Innovation Council, which will recommend ways to increase research and development and make Oregon a global leader in the use of technology.
Our last major economic challenge is education.
I could spend my entire time today talking about the connection between education and long-term prosperity. That's how strongly I feel about making Oregon the best educated state in the country.
But if there's one point I want every Oregonian to understand it is this: Nothing will put Oregon's economy into overdrive faster than a stable, well-funded and accessible pre-K through 20 education system. This means that the state of education in Oregon will become if it isn't already the most important measure of the state of our state.
It's not difficult to understand why. Businesses whether they're here now or coming in the future will demand a highly skilled workforce. If we do not reverse the decade-long disinvestment in post-secondary education, and pay more attention to retraining lower wage workers it is only a matter of time before a future Governor stands where I'm standing and says: "The state of our state is in decline."
My vision for education in Oregon is to never let this happen. You can see that in the choices I made for the 05-07 budget. Even during a budget process that required painful choices we still sent education to the front of the budget line. We put more money into K through 12. We increased funding for community colleges and The Oregon University System. And we doubled our investment in Oregon Opportunity Grants, which will raise to 130,000 the number of students that will be given assistance in paying for a post-secondary education. We also raised the bonding capacity of our community colleges and universities to an unprecedented 450-million dollars.
The issue with education is not just money. That's why I propose to change the way our schools do business. I want to consolidate most central office administrative services; create an electronic data system to track and manage student progress; and put together one statewide health insurance pool for K through 12 instead of the 198 we have now.
I've been asked many times since I unveiled my 05-07 budget if giving 5-billion dollars, 45-percent of the state General Fund, to K through 12 education is adequate. The answer is no. But it is all we can afford given our current revenues.
However, if the Legislature follows my lead, exercises budget discipline, and restores fiscal stability then based on today's revenue forecasts, we can create a half-billion dollar per biennium education investment fund before the end of this decade. This will give us the resources we need to build the best public education system in the country.
Globalization, technology and education are three of our great economic challenges. The more courage we have to face them and determination we show to overcome them the stronger our state will be. But just as men and women do not live by bread alone, our state does not live by economic output alone.
In addition to economic challenges, we also face a great moral challenge: To make sure that opportunity is an open door through which every citizen can pass not a revolving door that turns for some and doesn't budge for others. This is a moral challenge because if we do not defend social justice, tolerance and diversity then the progress we make on the economic front will be bought with compromised principles and a weakened human spirit.
That is not a trade-off I can accept which is why I will introduce a bill adding sexual orientation to state laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Ask yourselves: Do we really want to push ahead by leaving others behind? And do we really want to risk our future by turning our backs on the talent and drive of women, minorities, gays and lesbians, and our native brothers and sisters?
We need to bring people in not shut them out. This is the right thing to do. It also happens to be the smart thing to do. Diversity is a strength not a weakness. That's why I support affirmative action and believe that women, minority and small businesses should be afforded meaningful opportunities to participate in both the public and private economy. Standing up for diversity will help us strengthen the state of our state by tapping the abilities of all our citizens. Just as important standing up for diversity will affirm that we really are one Oregon with one common destiny.
The idea that we are one Oregon with one common destiny goes to the core of who I am and my love for this state. In my inaugural address two years ago, I pledged that the days of ignoring rural Oregon while urban Oregon raced toward recovery were over. I've tried very hard to keep that pledge by visiting every county in the state, and working with the Legislature to create the Office of Rural Policy whose sole responsibility is to respond to the needs of rural Oregon. The payoff I envision is one thriving economy across all of Oregon that creates jobs and holds families and communities together.
But a powerful economy alone does not make us one Oregon. Only shared values can do that. And we have those shared values. They cross party lines. Regional lines. Ethnic lines. And generational lines. Oregonians' relationship to their environment defines who we are. It describes our love and passion for this place called Oregon. We understand in our souls that our quality of life is measured by our commitment to and investment in our environment. I'm talking about protecting our air, water and land resources from the ravages of industrial pollution and unbridled development. I'm talking about protecting our old growth forests from easy plunder and quick profit and our wildlife from extinction. And I'm talking about protecting our traditional fishing and farming communities.
Every one of these values is now in the cross hairs of the federal government. Their weapon of choice varies. Sometimes it is administrative fiat. Sometimes it is a congressional enactment. Sometimes it is suing us in federal court.
Make no mistake: I believe in a strong state-federal partnership. The federal government owns more than half of Oregon's forestlands. We have to work together. But as equals not as landlord and tenant. After two years of dealing with the federal government on environmental issues that are critical to Oregon's future, I've learned an important lesson: On our side of the table "partnership" means what the dictionary says it means. On their side of the table it means consultation and then doing whatever they want.
As Governor, I will not sit by while the federal government attempts to dismantle our environmental legacy, undermine our values, and erode our sovereignty. The time has come to draw a line and say enough! That's what I intend to do starting with the federal government's 2004 Biological Opinion for the Columbia River Power System.
The Columbia River hydro system is an asset to Oregon and the greatest source of electricity in the region. It provides many Oregonians with competitively priced power that is critical to our economy. But abundant salmon is also critical to our economy and our Native tribes. It is wrong to assume we have to sacrifice salmon for power. We can have stable and predictable electrical power and plentiful salmon.
The 2004 Biological Opinion claims that federal law does not require that salmon be brought back to abundant levels, and that the harm caused by Columbia River dams can be ignored. This is absolute nonsense to me and to the people of Oregon. That is why I intervened in a lawsuit in federal court last year to prevent the reduction of summer spill over the Columbia River dams. And that is why I intend to take a hard line on the current Biological Opinion.
This dispute is about two words: Survival and recovery. The federal government wants to turn its back on its previous policy of recovering salmon to levels that sustain social, economic and ecological benefits and substitute the lower standard of making sure that salmon simply survive. This is wrong and if I cannot compel the federal government through negotiation to do what's right, I will use every legal tool the state has to change survival back to recovery. That includes becoming a plaintiff in this case. And believe me if we join the suit we will not be a potted plant!
As the Oregon Plan has proven, this is in Oregon's long-term economic interest because the sooner salmon gets back up to abundant levels, the greater the opportunity to avoid restrictions imposed on our economy by state and federal law.
I have also stated my opposition to the proposed revision by the Forest Service of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. I do not want to see the breakup of large contiguous roadless areas, which is certain to lead to severe environmental damage. This is a decades-old debate centered on decades of uncoordinated laws that do not reflect modern science or current social values.
The time has come to stop looking in the rearview mirror and end the debate about roadless areas. We thought this debate was over and it should be. The Administration's attempt to repeal the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule must cease.
Protect roadless areas do not destroy them!
There is also the matter of global warming. The Administration should never have walked away from the Kyoto Treaty. Global warming is real and it is here today. The facts aren't the issue. The policy is the issue. I think the Administration's policy on global warming is dead wrong.
I have no intention of waiting for the Administration back in Washington to learn the science. I appointed an Advisory Group on Global Warming, which reported to me what Oregon can do to reduce greenhouse gases. We will work together to review and implement these recommendations. At the same time I will be working with western governors so that we can take an aggressive regional approach to this problem.
Not all threats to our environmental values come from Washington DC. We also have one that is home grown or at least grown at the ballot box. For the last 30 years, Oregon has earned a reputation for having an orderly and sustainable land use planning system. Measure 37 puts that system at risk. This is not about undoing the will of the voters. But there is no dispute that there are ambiguities in the language and confusion about the meaning of Measure 37.
We must resolve these ambiguities, and end the confusion in this legislative session! But that's not enough. With Measure 37 on the table, now is the time to take a broader look at our land use system to find ways to make the system more responsive to the needs of our citizens.
I started my remarks today by asking for a moment of silence in honor of the Oregon soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been to almost all of the funerals of soldiers with an Oregon connection. And I will go to another one at the end of this ceremony.
Every funeral reminds me that nothing in a parent's life means as much or hurts as much as the loss of a child. There is really nothing that can ease that pain. But parents want to believe that there is at least some meaning and purpose to their loss. And we do too. So I talk with them. Cry with them. And understand in my heart that the death of their child is also a wound to Oregon.
All the young men and women who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan truly are the best Oregon has to offer. Most are in their early twenties. They train hard, leave behind spouses, children, and parents and walk into harms way. Many join the military as a way to continue their education when they return home. I am forever humbled by their courage and grace and forever thankful for their belief in duty, honor and country.
I want Oregonians to understand that as far I'm concerned, every soldier, sailor, Marine and airman serving in Iraq and Afghanistan is a patriot. They're given their orders, they salute smartly, and they carry out their mission with great skill and professionalism. They do not question their orders. But perhaps we should.
This is not about whether going to Iraq was the right choice. That is a question for historians and every citizen in his or her own heart and conscience to answer. But as Governor and Commander in Chief of the Oregon National Guard with more than 1300 Guard troops and many other Oregon soldiers deployed overseas, and more on the way it is my responsibility to ask whether our national leadership, which had a plan for starting this war, also has a plan for ending it.
Is there an exit strategy and how far down the road is it?
The Iraqi elections at the end of this month provide us with an opportunity to engage the United Nations in a leadership role, and to help it create a true international coalition that will work to bring social and economic stability to that country, and even more important, bring our troops home.
Why does Iraq affect the state of our state? Because the Oregon bravehearts now in Iraq are this state's future leaders. Who among them will be Oregon's Governor some day? Or founder of the next Nike? Or teacher of the year? Of those who already died we'll never know. But we do know that our state will never as be strong as it can be if we continue to send the generation now coming of age into the breach with no plan to bring them home.
When I mention future leaders of Oregon I can't help but think about the recent loss of one of our greatest leaders from the past: Loren "Stub" Stewart. He would be a role model for any young Oregonian. And he should certainly be a role model for us throughout this session. He worked hard. He was self-reliant. And he had an unshakable belief that every Oregonian has the power to make this wonderful state an even better place to live. Stub Stewart was the embodiment of Winston Churchill's famous observation: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
Now it is our turn to give. Our turn for bipartisanship. Our turn to make a true commitment to fiscal responsibility. Our turn to build a rainy day fund and an investment fund for education. Our turn to check our moral compass and make sure that the shadow of bigotry and intolerance never darkens our spirit. Our turn to make this wonderful state an even better place to live. And most of all our turn to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
I'm ready and I'm certain that you are too.
God bless us all. And God bless Oregon.