Governor Kate Brown addressing the Legislature
Good morning everyone…
I ran for office for the first time in 1992 . My platform then was stable and adequate funding for our educational system.
In 2018 — in what may very well be my last run for office — my platform was again stable and adequate funding for our education system.
Today, in 2019, I’m very very proud to say that we finally passed a transformational and sustainable investment in our educational system with the signing of House Bill 3427.
The Student Success Act marks a turning point for education in Oregon. We can finally invest in an education system that will ensure every single student in our state is on a path to realizing their dreams for the future. What we have come together to do, over the past few months, will be felt by students, teachers, and schools for years to come.
But that wasn’t all.
Since the 90s, I have worked on meaningful campaign finance reform. After Oregonians vote next November, we will be able to ensure that no one can buy a megaphone big enough to drown out every other voice.
We didn’t stop there.
In 1991, as an advocate for the Women’s Rights Coalition, I began working on Paid Family Leave.
Now, we can finally tell parents they no longer have to worry about losing their pay when they are having a baby or need to care for a loved one.
One thing that has changed every year since I first started working in the capitol is the cost of housing in Oregon. Dan and I bought our home in Southeast Portland in the late 1990s. If we were buying our first home in that neighborhood today, there’s absolutely no way we could afford it.
But after the progress we made this session on addressing the housing crisis, we are moving ahead to ensure Oregon is more affordable for everyone. I’m so pleased with the significant investments we made to prevent rent gouging and to help every family have a warm, safe, dry place to call home.
Oregon has long been a leader in access to health care — with virtually every single adult covered, either with employer-sponsored insurance coverage, through the Oregon Health Plan or individually purchased .
However, to maintain that coverage and to continue to improve health access across the state, we needed a longer-term, sustainable funding source.
I stand before you today to say that we have made the progress we needed to prevent families from living in fear that their health care will be stripped away from them.
In total, this has been an extraordinary session in terms of making Oregon a place where everyone can thrive. I don’t remember a legislative session where we have made this much progress.
I’m proud of what we did and how we did it—collaboratively across the aisle and across the state.
That’s the Oregon way.
But, I think we can all agree that the Oregon Way was not on display the last two weeks.
And now, we are left with one major piece of unfinished business. My colleagues in the legislature and I were elected by Oregonians with a clear mandate to address the challenge of climate change. If that isn’t clear to everyone, just ask the young people who stood in this chamber throughout session and pleaded for a better future – for themselves and their children. I will continue to fight for their future.
We need to pass a cap and invest program that will achieve the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals at the least possible cost while continuing to grow our economy. This is an issue that affects our economies, communities, and our people across the state.
No matter what political party you affiliate with, we can all agree that this is an issue that will ripple from generation to generation if we do not work together and do our part to ensure that Oregon meets this challenge.
Let me be very clear, I am not backing down.
There was a lot of hard work over the past two years since I first announced cap and invest as a priority. Good work, and frankly, many changes based on constructive industry feedback went into HB 2020.
Some are saying that a bill with over 100 amendments is a flawed bill. I say it is a sign of a collaborative process and a good product.
So today, I am asking every Oregonian to work with us to find a path forward — together — to create clean energy jobs across the state.
As you know, I have traveled Oregon extensively to learn more about how climate change itself is impacting our communities. I have also been listening to Oregon communities to learn how a cap and invest system would impact jobs and industry.
Over the next few months, I will redouble my efforts with impacted industries and communities to ensure that we truly understand their concerns.
Specifically, I am directing the Carbon Policy Office to work with rural manufacturers to analyze the cost and competitiveness of their industries. We need to know how we can sustain these important jobs that this sector provides while meeting our carbon reduction goals.
Second: I am also directing my staff to meet with transportation interests to discuss reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector and further incentivize the transition to lower-emitting vehicles under a cap and invest system.
My goal for the next few months is to present proposed modifications to the legislation that still achieves the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals at the least possible cost while continuing to grow our economy.
We know that economic growth and addressing climate change are not mutually exclusive goals. Oregonians have elected us to find a path forward toward achieving both those goals.
To be clear, working together on legislation is my preferred approach, collaborating across the aisle and around the state.
However, given the uncertainty that now permeates Oregon’s political system, I am also directing my staff and agencies to explore alternative paths in case collaborative approaches do not lead to successful legislation. This includes the use of my executive powers and direction of agencies.
The stakes are high.
We are in fire season. Increasing threats from insects and disease threaten our forests. Fruit trees and grapes are suffering in increasingly warm winters. Ocean acidification threatens our most valuable fisheries. And a declining snowpack threatens our valuable outdoor recreation industry.
I have had an open door policy since this discussion began. I will continue to listen to any concerns brought by Oregonians.
But make no mistake, doing nothing to reduce emissions is not an option. Not for our economy, not our environment and not for our children.
I am open to modifications. But I am not open to inaction.