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Jan-15-2013 13:35printcomments

OR: Governor, Lawmakers Set Priorities for Legislative Session

“It’s going to take all of us together to create jobs today” - Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber

Gov. John Kitzhaber delivers his state of the state address Monday in Salem.
Gov. John Kitzhaber delivers his state of the state address Monday in Salem.

(SALEM NW Watchdog) - Notoriously wearing blue jeans with his suit jacket and tie, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber delivered his State of the State speech Monday on the largely ceremonial first day of the legislative session, calling for cooperation among lawmakers to deal with prickly issues such as pension reform.

Kitzhaber, a Democrat, called for an increase in education funding and a reduction of costs in healthcare, prisons and the state’s Public Employees Retirement System.  He said if the state is serious about funding schools, it will require cost cuts in other areas.

“It’s no longer just a revenue problem, it has also become a cost problem,” he said. Among Kitzhaber’s priorities are controversial changes to the PERS system that include caps on cost of living adjustments. Reforming PERS, which holds a $16 billion unfunded liability, has historically been a Republican issue and Democrats now hold a majority in both the Senate and House.

“I am aware that my proposal to cap the cost of living adjustment for PERS retirees is controversial,” Kitzhaber said. “We need a conversation about striking balance between cost of retirement system and our ability to put money in the classroom.”

The governor’s speech opened the session which continues this week with organizational items and bill filing and starts in earnest Feb. 4

Kitzhaber also called on the need for “equal recovery,” highlighting the need for more jobs in rural Oregon, not just Portland metro.

“It’s going to take all of us together to create jobs today,” he said.

The House Republicans released priorities for the 2013 session shortly before the governor’s speech. They also called for long term PERS reforms and job growth.

“House Republicans will work to implement spending reforms, promote essential spending and require agencies to justify fee increases,” Rep. Dennis Richardson. R-Central Point, Vice Chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, said in a press release. “With the continued uncertainty in our economy and the Governor’s budget assumptions, it will be important to maintain a healthy reserve fund to ensure a stable budget and avoid devastating budget cuts later in the biennium.”

Contact Shelby Sebens at, or follow her on Twitter @ShelbySebens. For more Northwest Watchdog updates, visit NWWatchdog on Facebook and Twitter.

Special thanks to NW Watchdog


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