The gubernatorial candidates for Oregon face a state with an uncertain economy, a wall of debt, declining revenues and an unemployment rate of 10.6 percent, a full percentage point more than the national average. 1859 Oregon’s Magazine caught up with John Kitzhaber, the Democratic candidate and Chris Dudley, the Republican hopeful, to ask them, what they see as the greatest challenge facing Oregon.
John Kitzhaber, Democratic Candidate
The greatest challenge facing Oregon is the need to change the size, scope and cost of government while also putting Oregon back to work and setting up the state for long-term economic success.
That’s not all. Oregon’s next governor needs to do all this at the most difficult time in our history. Oregon is at the low point in state revenues and at the high point in social need.
With a life-long dedication to helping the citizens of this state and with direct experience creating jobs and attracting new investments to Oregon, I am the only candidate voters can trust to do what is needed to create a better future for Oregon. And I have a plan to do just that.
My Jobs Plan begins with identifying immediate opportunities to put Oregonians back to work and it does so in a way that invests in our schools, saves energy, increases our use of renewable energy and improves forest health. It also re-energizes the state’s effort to support existing businesses by increasing access to investment capital and by offering needed expertise and services to connect companies to new growth and expansion opportunities.
We must also view our next budget not in terms of how we “cut” $2 billion but rather how we take the revenue we have and invest it as the first step in a prioritized reinvestment plan.
At the top of that list is education—our most important long-term economic investment. We need to fund education using a unified, performance-based budget to target our limited resources in ways that maximize student achievement. Improving our education system is at the heart of delivering long-term economic success and the key to a brighter future.
Oregon faces tremendous challenges and we need a leader who is up to the challenge. I have a proven record of delivering real change and an understanding of where Oregon has been and where we need to go. Oregonians can trust me to move Oregon forward.
Chris Dudley, Republican Candidate
The biggest challenge facing Oregon is the economic crisis. Jump-starting our economy begins with creating jobs, which is critical to improving Oregon’s quality of life. Without jobs we can’t have great schools, a clean environment or quality health care.
To be sure, jobs are created in the private sector, not by the government. We will start by improving the business climate to create a thriving private sector—robust job growth, a tax and regulatory environment friendly to business and capital investment. To get there, I will reduce capital gains taxes for Oregon investments that create Oregon jobs, and reduce the taxes paid by businesses when they invest in a new piece of equipment to become more efficient and productive. Without businesses there are no jobs, so let’s attract them and encourage existing businesses to expand.
Jobs also provide critical revenue needed to address the projected $2.7 billion budget shortfall we face. Simply put, we need more taxpayers, not taxes. We must also fundamentally change the way we budget, the way we spend, and the way we save to truly reform government and put Oregon on a course toward financial stability. My administration will implement zero-based budgeting by building our budgets on available revenue and ending automatic budget increases. It’s time Oregon started spending efficiently and living within our means.
For Oregon’s large and small businesses to succeed and to innovate globally, our universities must be given the freedom to raise the bar and offer world-class education that results in a highly desirable talent pool. Unfortunately, our universities are saddled by government bureaucracy. I will reduce the 6,300 line-items that hinder their ability to educate.
I am optimistic about our future. I see an Oregon with a strong and vibrant business community providing family wage jobs, and with a government that leaves you with more of your money to stimulate the economy. Together, we can put Oregon on a new direction for a brighter tomorrow.