SALEM — Oregonians from Roseburg to Cascade Locks gathered at the state library Tuesday to talk rural.
The day’s events included exhibits from economic development groups, school districts and businesses.
In remarks to attendees in the morning, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she was focused on education, healthcare and economic development in rural areas of the state.
She said that while Oregon has one of the fastest growing GDPs among U.S. states, and a low unemployment rate, those economic gains have not always extended outside of the state’s major metro areas.
To boost economic development, Brown said she wanted to invest in infrastructure such as affordable housing, roads and water treatment; and invest in “innovative technologies” and workforce development.
In response to a question about bills before the Legislature to reduce what was characterized as the “regulatory burden” on rural healthcare providers, Brown said that the expansion of Medicaid had been a boon for Oregon, adding that more Oregonians are insured and that the expansion created jobs in the healthcare sector.
But the governor said that the “challenge” is figuring out how pay for it. Although the federal government initially covered all costs associated with expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the amount of financial support is scheduled to gradually shrink.
In terms of affordable and low-income housing in rural Oregon, Brown said she wanted to encourage more private-public partnerships for housing development and encourage the legislature to dedicate more bonding capacity to housing projects.