I have a tremendous sense of optimism this morning. We have an opportunity this session to follow through on our commitment to Oregonians to build an enduring prosperity for our state.
I am joined here today by representatives of the Oregon Business Plan, Associated Oregon Industries, Oregon Business Association, Oregon Business Council, and the Portland Business Alliance, all of whom have worked together diligently for well over a year to find a way to reduce the costs and improve the quality of our health care and to improve our system of public education. And all of them and their organizations have repeatedly emphasized the fact that health care and education are essential elements of long term job creation and economic prosperity.
Last year this Legislature -- and some of the leaders of that Legislature have joined us this morning -- took on one of the largest budget deficits in the nation. They erased that with civility and integrity -- a remarkable feat in this divided nation -- and took the first steps to transform our systems of public education and health care.
This year we have the opportunity to move that important work forward with the same spirit of bipartisanship. I think Oregonians expect no less. And I think that at the end of the day, these issues are not Republican issues or Democratic issues; these are Oregon issues. These are issues of economic prosperity. And they are key elements of the Oregon Business Plan.
As you can see from this chart, there are many important bipartisan jobs bills moving through this session, and we continue to work to find agreement on the proposal to tap some surplus water out of the Columbia to expand agriculture operations in eastern Oregon. In total, this is a jobs package of which the entire Legislature should be proud.
But without passing the two education bills and our two health care bills, we will not have fulfilled our obligations to Oregonians.
So we are here today simply to reemphasize the importance of those four bills to the Oregon Business Plan, to our overall job creation effort, to the effort to get Oregon's economy going again, and to touch on some of the consequences of failing to do so.
The health insurance exchange bill, if it fails to pass, will have two detrimental consequences. First, it will put at risk our federal waivers and some two and a half billion dollars that we hope to get into the state to make this transition. The Obama administration views our work in Oregon not simply as a way to reform Medicaid but to reform our overall health care delivery system that eventually will reduce costs for small businesses and families alike.
Second, without the passage of this bill, we will leave Oregon small businesses at the mercy of the small group market, which is increasingly becoming unaffordable, and the cost of health care is a job killer in the state of Oregon.
Without passing the Early Childhood bill, we'll continue to throw 18,000 children over the stern every year--kids who will come to school without the potential to achieve and thrive and become contributing members of our society, and that simply should not be acceptable to any of us. Without passing the achievement compacts, we will be unable to achieve our 40/40/20 goals that have been endorsed by all these organizations with me today by 2025. Next year's class of kindergarteners is the class of 2025, and we have school districts across Oregon waiting to engage in the process of developing and signing those achievement compacts starting this April. We will not be able to do that if we don't move this bill forward; we will fail to get our No Child Left Behind waiver; and we'll be stuck with a system that is graduating 67 percent of Oregon high school students, which is not a good signal to having a competitive workforce for the 21st century.
Again I remain very optimistic that this session, like the last one, is going to produce a significant package of legislation that Oregonians can look at with pride and that will help us move beyond the current recession to a much more prosperous future."