Monday was the opening day for the 77th Oregon Legislature. New representatives and senators listened to Governor Kitzhaber's plans to cut costs across the board, in healthcare, corrections, and other areas.
At the State of the State Address in Salem, Governor Kitzhaber outlined the work cut out for legislators and emphasized his priorities...education and jobs.
"It's clear to me that the entire enterprise of public education is underfunded at all levels," said Governor John Kitzhaber.
"There are far too many Oregonians still being left behind," he said about unemployment.
In order to funnel money into job creation and the classroom, the governor laid out his plan for this upcoming biennium.
"Reducing the cost of healthcare and corrections, reducing the cost drivers that are diverting resources from the classroom and undertaking a serious review of Oregon's tax expenditures," he said.
When it comes to healthcare, the governor said he wants to hold medical inflation in the medicaid program constant at 3.4%
"That will save $100-million in general funds in this biennium, almost $200-million in the next biennium and $400-million in the 2017-2019 biennium."
According to Governor Kitzhaber, if coordinated care organizations are extended to public employees, the projected savings over 10-years will be around five-billion dollars. As for corrections...
"[We need to] find alternative and effective ways to sanction non-violent offenders and to invest in proven crime prevention measures and community corrections instead of building a whole new round of prisons," he said.
The governor also briefly touched on capping the cost of living adjustment for retirees in the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS). He said half of the increasing cost of education is from PERS alone.
However, despite all the work that lies ahead, the governor said in the last two years, Oregon has been rid of a $3.5-billion budget deficit, created nearly 40,000 jobs and Oregon's economy is the second fastest growing in the nation.