PORTLAND — Gov. Kate Brown used her state-of-the-state address Friday to claim a series of social, economic and environmental achievements during her first full year in office.
Calling it “a watershed year for Oregon,” she recounted to a crowd of about 500 at the City Club of Portland that the state had passed several first-in-the-nation laws. Those policies ban the sale of coal-powered electricity, automatically register people to vote, set a tiered minimum wage and allow the sale of birth control without a prescription.
She compared the new policies to the legacy of former Gov. Tom McCall, known for his leadership in passing landmark land-use planning laws in 1973.
“I think that these first-ever achievements over the past 14 months would have made Gov. McCall very proud,” Brown said.
She also committed to proposing a transportation plan during the 2017 legislative session. That echoed a promise she made in her first state-of-the-state address in April 2015 to make transportation one of her top priorities, but she later delayed that plan.
She called her ascension from secretary of state to the state’s highest office in February 2015 “unexpected.” As secretary of state, she automatically succeeded Gov. John Kitzhaber when he resigned that same month over an influence-peddling scandal involving his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes.
Brown said she has since strived to enhance government transparency.
She cited new policies that require lobbyists to disclose whom they represent within three days of hiring, and changes to ethics laws that increase penalties for knowingly using public office for private gain.
However, the Pamplin Media/EO Media Group Capital Bureau recently reported that meaningful public records reform, such as deadlines and fee limits for responding to public record, has failed to progress since Brown took office. She also failed to follow through on a plan to create a public records advocate to help the public with public record denials, but she repeated her plan to propose legislation to create that position in 2017.
Brown described other accomplishments as investing $70 million in addressing the state’s housing shortage, boosting funding for higher education and early childhood education and subsidizing college tuition with the Oregon Opportunity Grant.
She offered few specifics on policy proposals for the coming year. In addition to offering a transportation package, she repeated her commitment to improve the state’s graduation rate – one of the worst in the nation. She recently created a new position of education innovation officer to develop a strategy to accomplish that goal and plans to hire for the position in the next couple of weeks.
Before the 2017 session, Brown will face one of four Republicans in the November 2016 election to complete Kitzhaber’s term.
Looking forward, she promised to continue to lead Oregon’s policy trailblazing.
“We will go forwards, not backwards,” Brown said. “We will protect what makes Oregon great. We will be good stewards for future generations. We will be who we are: Oregonians — the blazers of new trails, the ones who get things done.”