BEND, OR -- Governor Kate Brown believes there is common ground to be found between the Trump administration and the state, and she sees infrastructure as a place to start. "I wish our new President well. I am very committed to making sure that Oregon's economy continues to thrive in every single corner of the state. And, from my perspective, that means making investments in infrastructure; investing in our roads and bridges, making sure that Highway 97 can be an effective and efficient thoroughfare. I want to make sure that we have an alternative route in the event of an earthquake." Governor Brown made the statement during last week's Western Oregon Governor's Conference on forest and rangeland. She says she wants to work with the federal government to help ensure the state is ready to withstand a future seismic event.
While in Bend, she also talked about the upcoming Legislative Session, which gets underway Wednesday in Salem. Among the items on her wish list: A transportation package. "I am absolutely committed to moving forward with a transportation package. It is a challenge to businesses in the Central Oregon arena to attract employees because there's no workforce housing. So, I think that transportation; we need the infrastructure and we need to build more work to provide more affordable housing across the state of Oregon." Lawmakers failed to pass a transportation bill in the 2016 session.
Gov. Brown is also focused on PERS reform. Paying for contracted pensions pinches state coffers, including local school budgets. The challenge is finding a solution to fund the Public Employees Retirement System that will pass legal muster. "We need to keep our promises to Oregon retirees. The Supreme Court verified that in their decision, last year. I am open to any solution that is legally viable. I don't want us to end up on the hamster wheel of litigation." State Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) is working with a bipartisan group to come up with possible funding solutions for PERS.