Gov. Kate Brown today presented her inaugural address to the 80th Oregon Legislature.
Brown, a Democrat who defeated Republican Knute Buehler handily in November, spoke to the biggest Democratic majorities any Oregon governor has enjoyed in decades.
Yet—and perhaps because Democrats so dominate Oregon state politics—Brown presented a curiously restrained agenda.
The specific policy changes she says she'll fight for ranged from the specific—immediately providing $20 million to build permanent housing for 200 chronically homeless people—to the platitudinous—making sure "that every single one of our students is Future Ready."
Brown said she'll bring limits to Oregon's unfettered campaign finance regulations, which currently place no limits on donations and she'll make it even easier to vote.
"I will work for campaign finance reform, fight for paid postage on our ballots, and expand our automatic voter registration system," she told lawmakers.
Brown also said she will also commit $400 million to housing and push for an increase in K-12 spending.
"Our education system is in desperate need of repair, reform, and reinvestment. It's like an old house that hasn't been maintained. The longer we wait, the more it will cost to fix it," Brown said. "I will work with you, the business community, teachers, and parents to fund K-12 schools at a level that ensures our districts aren't forced to make cuts."
The governor nodded to the state's booming economy, which has generated record tax receipts and record low unemployment. She also acknowledged the benefits of the economy's strength have not been evenly distributed.
"Our state is growing faster than at any point in our lifetimes. With growth comes a lot of really good things. More jobs. More ideas. And hopefully, more opportunities," Brown said. "At the same time, not everyone is experiencing this prosperity."
Although Brown talked about supporting housing reforms proposed by House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), she did not say much about what will happen when the inevitable economic downturn comes.
In terms of containing the cost of government, Brown pledged to push for a new squad of auditors for state agencies and push more state money to local school districts to help them pay for the unfunded pension liability, which is more than $22 billion statewide.
Brown touched only briefly on the Public Employees Retirement System, saying she wants to spend more money to help local school districts pay down their unfunded liabilities so more money can go to benefit students.
"My budget also includes resources to stabilize PERS rates for schools. This is in addition to the dedicated investments we began last year," Brown said. "The unfunded liability in PERS is not going away. We must accelerate our work to stabilize PERS rates so that new dollars go directly into the classroom."