I just want to say thank you for everything you’ve done for Oregon.
Together we created 18,000 new jobs in the last year, passed a balanced budget, improved Oregon’s credit rating to AA+, and began streamlining state services. While too many Oregonians remain out of work, we will emerge from this recession stronger and better positioned for a more prosperous future.
We also set in motion major overhauls of our education and health care systems in 2011, for the first time creating a unified public education system from Pre-K to college and career, while improving how Oregon delivers more affordable, more effective health care to more citizens.
On Wednesday, legislators will gavel in our first 30-day session, and I am proposing four bills to further implement these changes, while continuing to focus on strengthening our economy.
Let’s begin with early childhood. It’s hard to imagine a child at the age of six, showing up for the first day of kindergarten unable to match any spoken or written words, or understand that print is read from left to right. Yet for many of the 108,000 at-risk kids under the age of six, this is exactly the situation they face. My early learning bill focuses on integrating and streamlining the nutrition, health care and preschool services children need to be ready for kindergarten and beyond.
When it comes to K-12, one size does not fit all. For a decade we’ve experimented with No Child Left Behind, and we now have an opportunity to obtain a waiver from its punitive provisions if we can create a home-grown alternative that provides accountability and better paths to student success. Our proposed achievement compacts express a common commitment to improving outcomes, and tailor outcomes to the unique circumstances of individual districts. The Oregonian Editorial board recently pushed for action, writing, “So let’s move. Pass the education bills in February.”
It’s time for better health at a lower cost. My first health care bill implements Coordinated Care Organizations, creating partnerships between providers and stakeholders to deliver better health care at lower costs. Initial studies show more than $3 billion in savings to the state over the next five years through preventative medicine and coordinated services. As the Register Guard recently noted, “There has to be a better way. Oregon may have found it.”
Finally, it’s your insurance, so you should know what you’re buying. My Health Insurance Exchange bill finalizes implementation of an efficient central marketplace for individuals and small businesses shopping for health insurance. Oregonians will be able to easily compare plans, find out if they are eligible for tax credits and other financial assistance, and enroll for coverage through the Exchange website by 2013.
In the coming month, I hope that you will once again weigh in on these important issues and join me in putting Oregon on a path toward better education and health care.
Thank you for all you do for Oregon.