Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber stressed the dire financial condition of the state government during his swearing-in ceremony Monday.
“We face high unemployment, a divided state, and a projected budget deficit of $3.5 billion — about 20% of our general fund,” Kitzhaber, a Democrat, said during his speech. “And while those numbers will surely occupy all of us for the next six months, we cannot let them consume us.”
Kitzhaber said the political debate should shift from cutting budgets and raising taxes to focus on the economy and the delivery of public services.
The governor has proposed adopting a 10-year budget strategy, rather than using a two-year strategy.
As part of that effort, Kitzhaber said he will work with the Oregon Business Plan Steering Committee, labor, and legislative leadership to develop a plan to address the economic situation.
He said that he supports a main goal of the committee: to create an average of 25,000 jobs a year through 2020 and to increase the state’s per capita income level above the national average. Kitzhaber emphasized the need for growth in rural areas.
Kitzhaber, who served two previous terms as governor starting in 1995, said education would also be a priority.