WEB - GUEST OP - KulongoskiGovernor Ted Kulongoski recently delivered his 2005 State of the State address to the joint chambers of the state legislature. The Governor underscored the need for bipartisanship and outlined his vision for fiscal discipline, the economy, education, equality, the environment and preserving Oregon's high quality of life. He also addressed how the conflict in Iraq is affecting the state of Oregon.
The Governor highlighted his Oregon Principles Budget priorities and the need to adopt a budget that does not rely on borrowing for operating expenses or shifting costs to future budgets. In so doing, the Governor reiterated his call for a rainy day fund and Pre-K-20 education investment fund, connecting the need for stability in education funding and in growing Oregon's economy.
"Today I renew my call for putting 4-percent of revenues into rainy day fund that will protect us against a repeat of multiple special sessions to cut essential government services, and to create an investment fund for Pre-K through 20 education," the Governor said. "These two steps will give state government the financial stability it has lacked for years. 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."
The Governor also emphasized the connection between the state of the state and the economy, equality, and Oregon's values and sovereignty. He called for investment in workforce training so low-wage earners have access to the training and skills they need to advance their careers and contribute to the economy, and for creating an economic niche for Oregon so as to support the expansion of existing companies as well as the recruitment of new ones.
The Governor further underscored the importance of embracing the changing needs of a global economy from transportation to technology, and called for the passage of his multi-modal transportation bill.
"We are a coastal state, which gives us an enormous competitive edge - but we must have better, cheaper, and faster ways to import what we need and export what we make," the Governor said. "That's why I'll be sending you a 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 Governor's address also highlighted the moral challenges facing the state and called on the citizens of Oregon and the legislature to join him in standing up for diversity and social equality. He announced that he will introduce an anti-sexual discrimination bill this legislative session and called for the legislature's support.
"We face a great moral challenge to make sure opportunity is an open door through which every citizen can pass - not a revolving door which turns for some and doesn't budge for others. If we do not defend social justice, tolerance and diversity, then the progress we make on the economic front will be fraught with compromised principles and a weakened human spirit," Governor Kulongoski said.
The Governor reiterated his commitment to a strong state-federal partnership, but also made it clear his commitment to ensuring Oregon's quality of life, environmental legacy and values are not eroded by evolving federal policies.
"The time has come to draw a line and say - enough! It is wrong to assume we have to sacrifice salmon for power - we can have both affordable and predictable power and plentiful salmon," the Governor said. "The 2004 Biological Opinion does not require salmon to be brought back to abundant levels and allows for the harm caused by the Columbia River dams to be ignored. This is absolutely unacceptable to me - and to the people of Oregon."
The Governor reinforced his commitment to working with the federal government on Oregon's Plan to recover salmon to levels that sustain social, economic and ecological benefits, but also acknowledged that if necessary, he would use every legal tool available to the state to change the federal administration's policy of salmon survival back to true salmon recovery.
The Governor also called for the legislature to join him in resolving the ambiguities of Measure 37 and to take a more comprehensive review of Oregon's land use system to ensure it responds to the needs of Oregonians while also protecting the quality of life for Oregon's communities.
The Governor's speech included recognition and support for the Oregon soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also questioned whether the administration has a plan in place for getting Oregonians home.
"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,"
"As Governor and Commander in Chief of the Oregon National Guard, 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."
The Governor closed his address by calling again for the legislature's partnership in carrying out the work of Oregonians with reference to Winston Churchill's famous observation, `We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.'
Ted Kulongoski is the Governor of Oregon. He can be reached at: 503-378-4582