Reaction was swift Wednesday to Gov. Kate Brown’s ambitious and expensive proposal for state operations in the next budget cycle.
Key leaders such as Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. Here is a sampling of statements by other public officials, business organizations, unions and others:
Brad Reed, spokesman, Renew Oregon
Reed said the environmental organization was thrilled with Brown’s plan to create the Oregon Climate Authority, an agency that would oversee a gradually decreasing cap on carbon emissions and the investment in alternative energy projects and protection from climate-related issues such as wildfires.
“The big takeaway for us right now is this is really elevating the climate issue to the level of seriousness that is demanded, especially with the horrific and scary reports that came out,” Reed said.
Reed was referencing reports by the federal government and United Nations that climate change is more imminent than previously thought. Reed said it’s imperative that government gets involved.
Under the cap policy, businesses would be able to buy and trade credits to be cashed in if they can’t get under the emissions cap. The state has not decided if it would want to oversee the credit marketplace, or use a third party like Western Climate Initiative, which California and a few Canadian provinces use.
Reed said Renew Oregon strongly believes using Western Climate Initiative is a must to make sure the program runs well and costs less.
“At first blush, we do feel this is a great way to go,” Reed said. “This elevates it to a whole new level.”
Melissa Unger, executive director, Service Employees International Union Local 503
Unger said as a whole, the budget is the investment in services that Oregonians have asked for, and is great framework heading into the 2019 session.
She said the budget is large, and she still doesn’t know how it impacts the many state workers represented by SEIU.
Joe Baessler, spokesman, Oregon American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Baessler said overall, AFSCME is supportive of the progressive stance the governor took on the budget. He said adding 12 positions at Oregon Department of Corrections stood out to him. Baessler said when an inmate must go to the hospital, a corrections officer has to go along. For prisons in rural areas, that can be a long trip, requiring other officers to fill in on double or triple shifts. The 12 new positions will take on that workload to allow for fewer officers to perform the duty.
“Overtime is really out of control there,” he said.
Baessler also was happy to see the proposal for ballots to come with return envelopes with prepaid postage. He said many younger voters aren’t in the habit of buying stamps, so prepaid postage would be helpful.
Baessler said he was worried about the closure of three homes through the Stabilization and Crisis Unit, which provide 24-hour care to adults and children with intellectual disabilities. Baessler said AFSCME represents employees there, and it isn’t clear what is going to happen to them.
John Larson, President Oregon Education Association
The Oregon Education Association agreed with Brown in seeing the 2019 Legislature as a time to strike, moving beyond the type of funding for education Oregon has approved over the past few decades.
“We know that Oregon has one of the shortest school years in the nation, one of the largest average class sizes, and graduation rates that must be improved due to decades of threadbare budgets and cuts,” Larson said in a news release.
House Minority Leader Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass
Wilson termed Brown’s budget an assault on Oregonians’ bank accounts.
“Despite record tax revenues to the tune of more than $1 billion over the current budget, the governor today ‘challenged’ the Legislature to spend an additional $2 billion on top of that,” Wilson said in a news release. “This is not a challenge to the Legislature. It is a challenge to the wallets and pocketbooks of hardworking Oregonians. This is a call to drastically increase taxes on everyday Oregonians.”
State Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend
Knopp had a different view than Wilson though both served on the legislative Student Success Committee, which supports increased spending on education. Knopp said he expects the committee to go further than Brown on an education package.
Knopp said there is bipartisan support for education spending, but noted there will always be opposition to spending bills.
Sandra McDonough, CEO, Oregon Business and Industry
McDonough said the group will work with the Brown and lawmakers to make sure the state is being prudent and cost efficient, but is pleased with the investment in education.
"The governor’s budget sets the framework for the discussions that will commence when the Oregon Legislature convenes in January,” McDonough said in a news release. “The focus on improving education outcomes through targeted investments is consistent with long-held positions of the Oregon business community, and we are pleased that the budget recognizes the entire education spectrum, from pre-school to post-secondary”
Preston Mann, spokesman, Oregon Manufacturers and Commerce
Mann said the group commends the education investment portion, but want to see a balanced budget.
“Governor Brown’s budget includes a much-needed and commendable commitment to greater investment in our public schools,” Mann said in a news release. “However, given the ever-escalating pension contribution rates public employers are faced with, more money alone will not lead to better outcomes for our students. Any responsible conversation about raising revenue must also include a dialogue about reducing the cost of operating our state government.”
John Russell, President of the Russell Development Co.
Russell is part of the Coalition for Common Good, a business and union partnership working with Brown to craft policy. In her press conference Wednesday morning, Brown said she would lean on the coalition, which includes Nike, AFSCME and SEIU, as well as Russell Development Co., to find a way to pay for her investment package.
The coalition generally favors her proposals.
“The status quo in Oregon is both unacceptable and untenable. Despite best intentions, past attempts to solve some of Oregon’s most pressing problems have not brought forth adequate solutions,” Russell said in a news release sent out by the coalition.
Mike Cully, executive director, League of Oregon Cities
The League of Oregon Cities expressed strong support of Brown’s plan to combat homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in cities around the state, calling the $406 million proposed to help with affordable housing “unprecedented.”
“The League of Oregon Cities and the 241 municipalities it represents are pleased and supportive of the efforts of Governor Brown in addressing the priorities identified by our organization,” Cully said in a news release. “This sends a strong signal of support to cities statewide and reinforces the LOC’s desire to work closely with this administration in the best interest of all communities in the state.”
Reporter Aubrey Wieber: [email protected] or 503-575-1251. Wieber is a reporter for Salem Reporter who works for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, the Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.