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Public Statements

League of Oregon Cities Annual Meeting

Location: Unknown

Good morning, and thank you. I am honored to join you for your annual conference. We in state and local governments are living and working in a time of great challenge. As you all know, the recession hit Oregon hard and rural Oregon counties even harder, and our state faced a fiscal crisis as bad as any in the nation.

This delivered a blow to our ability to deliver needed public services, and it has tested our systems of public governance in ways that we have not experienced before. All across Oregon, in communities large and small, people have had to do more with less.

Since I returned to the Governor's office, one thing that has been incredibly gratifying is finding such highly qualified, caring, and committed community leaders -- people who stepped up when our needs were the greatest but our resources the leanest.

The challenges we've faced have been tough, but I'm happy to note that economic indicators are continuing to trend up.

I'm also optimistic because we're coming out the recession more united and stronger as a state. This reinforces our work, and I want you to know that your commitment now is the most important moment you could have chosen to devote your time, knowledge, and public service to your community.

This is the moment that brings hard choices and sacrifice, but it also brings opportunities to put Oregon on a new course to seize the best future for our state and communities.

Today, I want to briefly highlight three things that we are doing or are embarking on that will help us chart a new course to the future. These aren't the only things we need to do as a state. But they're important areas we can start with and then build upon.

First, I have become convinced that many of our state government systems are in need of an overhaul. They are too fragmented, and exist in silos when our problems require a multi-faceted, multi-sector approach on the ground.

We have begun to transform some top-down institutions, and I believe these efforts will lead to a more effective community based government. In health care, for example, we have created community care organizations that are designed to integrate funding streams in a way that addresses the unique regions of the state. The goal is to improve health outcomes while reducing costs.

In education, we have created the Early Learning Council to coordinate the supports needed to help children be ready to learn when they reach school. We have created education compacts between districts and the state to invest our dollars in programs and resources that deliver better learning outcomes for kids.

In the area of community and economic development, this idea of smart investment is increasingly important. I have become convinced that we must start making investments that achieve multiple objectives. To that end, I created regional solutions teams to work with you and focus on regional and community economic opportunities and priorities so that we can pursue projects with cities and counties in a more relevant and integrated way.

Our second task concerns the budget. I have asked our Chief Operating Officer, Mike Jordan -- a person well known to many of you in this room -- to develop a new way to do budgeting in Oregon.

I have long been frustrated by the current system that leads to what I call "rear-view mirror budgeting." We take what we spent the biennium before, adjust for inflation, and carry it forward as our starting point.

I want to start with the outcomes we want to achieve, then deliver our services in a more community-based fashion, as I just described. I believe that will lead to better outcomes because we'll be a better partner to local governments.

And we'll be able to bring more of the state's resources to communities where they belong while leveraging the resources of the private and civic sectors. This is not as easy as it sounds, but it is something that I ask for your help in continuing to develop and deliver.

Third, I recently received a report and recommendations from my task force on regulatory streamlining. The report has many recommendations, but one that I intend to implement through the next budget will put our regional solutions coordinators in the role of permit ombudsmen -- bringing federal, state and local agencies together when significant development projects are on the line.

This doesn't change protections provided by our rules and regulations, but it will help us avoid sequential permitting and duplicative efforts by developing a more coordinated, and hopefully more expedited, approach to permitting.

In addition, I have been meeting regularly with your Board of Directors, and one of the things that they have identified as a priority for work is our urbanization goal and population projections, which have become a lawyers playground. Next session, we will bring to the Legislature broadly supported proposals that lay out a workable solution.

There's a lot more going on in Oregon, but this gives you an idea of some of my priorities over the next year. In the meantime, we are continuing our work to transform education and health care and bring a more prosperous future to all of Oregon.

I am committed to encouraging an economic reinvention in Oregon -- one that boosts wages while building on Oregon's unique market advantages … where the state and the private sector work together to create competitive advantages for Oregon entrepreneurs and innovators … where we're preparing our workforce for the 21st century economy through improved education from pre-K through career … where we're overhauling our approach to health care to save billions over the next decade … and where we're streamlining government to be nimble and more effective for the people of this state.

I've often said that somewhere in America a state needs to be able to demonstrate that we can weather our toughest challenges together, without losing our sense of community and without losing our commitment to one another. I think Oregon is doing just that, and I thank you for the important role you're playing in making that possible.

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