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Governor Brown: Her first news conference – Whirlwind tour of issues

Governor Kate Brown First News Conference

Governor Kate Brown
First News Conference

Looking relaxed and confident, Governor Kate Brown faced Oregon’s press corps this morning, responding to a wide array of questions and offering some observations of her own. The overall tone was very upbeat but with the lingering pall of the still unfolding situation for former Governor John Kitzhaber and his fiance Cylvia Hayes.

Governor Brown was asked if Kitzhaber had asked her for a governor’s pardon in advance of any charges of criminal wrong-doing while in office, Brown replied, “He’s not asked me for a pardon. Besides, any answer would be speculative since no charges have been filed against him.”

Governor Brown replied to a question about the likelihood of a kicker rebate this year to taxpayers saying the budget outlook for Oregon looks pretty good but that it’s too early to tell. She did admit that there has been a great deal of debate over the nation’s one-and-only “kicker provision” here in Oregon and hinted that she might be interested in re-evaluating it. However, the final evaluation is up to the voters who enacted the kicker law in the first place.

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Governor Brown pointed out that she had spent part of the morning at Portland’s Rosa Parks Elementary School emphasizing that better funding for Oregon Schools is a top priority for her – closing the achievement gap and reducing class sizes. She said Oregon must do better for its children.

Governor Brown turned her attention to the state’s Ethics Commission which, for a while, was investigating the Kitzhaber-Hayes situation. Brown said she would immediately move to strengthen the commission’s appointment process, including no longer allowing a governor to veto appointments to it, intimating that the legislature is fully qualified to make proper appointments to the commission. Also that its investigative powers should be strengthened. She also repeated her often repeated statement that no one in state government will be allowed to receive income from sources that are seeking to or doing business with the state.

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Governor Brown spoke highly, of course, of her “motor voter” bill which would automatically sign up eligible newcomers to vote in Oregon while receiving their new driver’s license. As a footnote, the legislature passed her bill while the governor was talking with reporters. So…mission accomplished on that front, assuming she signs it which she undoubtedly will.

The “Clean Fuels” bill that was originally passed by the legislature in 2009 was also a topic of discussion. Rather than talking about criticisms of the bill raised mostly by republicans in the legislature, Brown simply stated that the result of the bill will mean cleaner air for all Oregonians “and that’s a good thing.”

When asked about her assessment on the West Coast port slowdown/strike situation, Brown said it’s a top issue for Oregon and that a solution must be found to stem the economic damage it’s inflicting on the West Coast and for Oregon in particular.

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Brown was also asked about news media and public access to records surrounding the Kitzhaber administration. Brown answered that she’s committed to “getting those documents identified and out to the media and to the public as fast as possible.” She reiterated that they must be sure that whatever documents are targeted for release are thoroughly examined by state legal counsel.

Governor Brown re-emphasized her commitment to getting adequate funding for Oregon’s highways and roads. She said our transportation infrastructure is critical to ensure the state’s full economic recovery. And part of that recovery, she said, is a higher minimum wage in Oregon. She hinted that determining how much that raise should be hinges on extensive dialog with economists and the legislature.

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