A crowd in the University of Oregon Ford Alumni Center applauded as Gov. Kate Brown took the stage Tuesday afternoon to deliver a speech and field questions about her priorities for the coming legislative session. While Brown did not divulge many specific details of her 2019 agenda, she did lay out her general areas of focus.
Most pertinent to UO students were Brown’s comments on the state’s education system, saying that she wanted to create a “seamless system of education” that would go from “cradle to career.” Brown said the state’s universities and community colleges are an important part of that system.
“I want to make sure that our universities and our community colleges have the resources they need to keep tuition down and low; I would say under 5 percent,” Brown said of possible tuition increases in an interview with the Emerald. “I want to make sure that they’re part of any investment package that we deliver on this legislative session.”
In her remarks to the audience, about 60 people, Brown said higher education needs to be more accessible and affordable for Oregon families.
“After years of under-investment, it’s going to take more than just additional funding to bring our schools back to a level we can be proud of,” Brown said. “We have failed our students of color and have left rural Oregon behind.”
Brown told the Emerald that in addition to keeping costs low, she wants to “fling open the doors of access” to first generation students, underserved communities and low-income families across the state.
“That’s why, in my investment package, I doubled funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant,” Brown said. “I see that as bottom-line. We need to continue that work to ensure affordability and accessibility for all of our families across the state.”
In her remarks, Brown likened Oregon’s education system to an old house in need of repair — the longer one waits to repair the house, the more the renovations will cost.
Brown said that she would work toward reforming campaign finance rules during this legislative session. She said including proposing paid postage on ballots and expanding automatic voter registration system would help increase Oregon’s already relatively high voter turnout.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to campaign finance, we are still the wild, wild west,” Brown said. “No one should be able to buy a megaphone so loud that it drowns out all the other voices.”
Protestors outside of the event were pleading Brown to stand firm on implementing policy to combat climate change. In her remarks, Brown noted the state’s current drought and recent wildfires and added that last year was the warmest year on record in Oregon since 1895. She also said she supports passing a clean energy jobs bill.
“I hope I can count on your support and your lobbying efforts in front of the legislature,” Brown said as she smiled at the protestors who took a seat in the audience.
Michael Tobin contributed reporting to this story.