OPB asked the three leading candidates for governor to explain their stances on a wide range of challenges facing Oregon. Here are unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson’s unedited responses.
Housing and homelessness
Housing supply in Oregon has not kept pace with the population growth, and the state continues to fall behind every year. What is your plan to increase housing stock?
The first thing I’m going to do to fix our housing problem is stop making it worse as Tina Kotek and Kate Brown have done in the ten years that they have been the architects of Oregon’s affordable housing disaster. The most important thing Salem needs to realize is that politicians don’t build affordable housing, and every time they pass legislation to mandate it, all they do is add costs that make housing more difficult to build and more likely not to be built at all. This is a market phenomenon that can be met by market forces if the liberal extremes would get out of the way. My plan, as governor, would be to be a partner with the housing industry to help meet their needs for accessible land, transportation, and infrastructure options while keeping those who want to dictate market behavior out of the way. The state has a role to play in where and how communities expand but not in arrogantly determining what pencils out for those who build houses for a living.
What is your plan to increase housing affordability?
As stated above, my plan is to make the state a useful and dependable partner in getting market forces what they need to succeed, namely buildable land, infrastructure, and transportation system support and fewer mandates on exactly what housing must look like. We need all types of housing in order to reduce overall housing costs within Oregon. Developers know how to make projects pencil out when they can depend on government to approve permits and assist in providing public services in a timely and predictable way. Right now, we make both harder, not easier.
Should the state’s land-use laws be changed? If so, how? If not, why?
Of course our land use laws need updating. Just ask Intel, who just moved a $20 billion project to Ohio because they couldn’t even get the governor to engage finding a solution to making land available under our overly complicated system. As one of the first friends of 1000 Friends of Oregon, I believe deeply that we need to preserve the boundaries that have helped us grow strong communities both urban and rural. To preserve that goal, we must show intelligence and flexibility in the way we respond to the realities shaping the world around us. To pretend we are done making land use laws is the height of arrogance and disregard for the needs of everyday Oregonians who want to be able to live here. As governor, I would bring together community leaders, developers, elected officials and planning experts to make sure every voice gets heard in this process, but Oregon needs to move forward and stop resting on its laurels as we lose the very things that have made it special, like the combination of livability and affordability that has uniquely defined our state.
Should there be a quicker, less burdensome way to expand the urban growth boundaries? If not, why? If yes, how would you accomplish that?
We need a quicker, less burdensome way to run a state, let alone our land use system. The urban growth boundary system was conceived of as a way to preserve the identity of our smaller urban areas and to protect forest and farmlands. As such, the system was set up concertedly to stop development. Now the housing shortage requires us to reconsider the process so that we can allow planned development while still protecting the same essential goals. As governor, I would not seek to dictate specific land use provisions but would instead lead to bring stakeholders together to establish shared values and drive the process to outcome. We can preserve the goals of our land use system while still meeting the need for more housing and jobs.
What needs to be done to address racial disparities that exist in Oregon housing today due to public policies that were discriminatory in the past?
First, we must acknowledge that policies absolutely play a role in either reinforcing or dismantling racism. As governor, I would focus on understanding exactly what land use laws have kept people of color from being able to secure equal opportunity. We need to guarantee equal access to loans and approval, as we strengthen accountability and enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. These problems persist mostly because elected officials give them general lip service but don’t drive specific changes.
Should Oregon be subsidizing more housing? If so, where and what type of housing? And where would the money come from?
Housing subsidies are an essential part of providing housing affordability for lowest income Oregonians, and I would continue to invest in them. That said, we need to recognize that subsidies are a small part of the solution to affordable housing availability, and we could never find enough money to provide subsidies to meet the need for available housing stock in Oregon. Finally, for subsidies to work at all, we need a different approach that focuses more on accountability and processes that are too often led astray by politics, malfeasance, or ineptitude. I am deeply suspicious that the state knows how to build or run housing effectively, so I would seek to partner with builders, banks, and community leaders to make sure we are investing in the right things and getting what we pay for.
What are your thoughts on Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order to consider how to reduce climate pollution when creating new housing?
Every time Governor Brown has failed to lead to secure enough votes for a special interest group through a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature, she has issued executive orders to try to use the state bureaucracy to go around the democratic process. This one is the worst. It is a misuse of power, abuse of trust, and a bad way to run a state. It gives appointed bureaucrats the ability to override local community laws and standards justified vaguely by greenhouse gas reduction without clear goals or accountability. I would crumple it up, throw it in the trash, and light the trash can on fire in a controlled burn.
Do you think the “middle housing” bill to allow for the creation of duplexes and triplexes on any lot of a city with a population of more than 10,000 will work as planned? Does it need to be tweaked at all?
I don’t know. I do know that we need to be willing to take chances and use new tools to ensure that we are preserving and growing communities that meet our values and our need for livable, affordable places to call home. I voted for this bill, but I believe we need to watch market reaction closely and strengthen the connection between home builders, community leaders, and elected officials much more as we begin to find our way forward. No law is going to fix all of our problems, but we can make progress when we truly work together across political, financial and social divides. We are not doing nearly enough of that in Oregon these days.
Who would you appoint to lead the head of the Department of Land Conservation and Development?
If I named a name now, you can be damn sure that person would never get the job. It would also prove me a hypocrite. I have said, and I believe, that appointments need to be made in a manner that respects bipartisanship and takes the best people and ideas from both parties. Right now, the governor largely rewards political allies, and the legislature throws up its hands. I would not appoint someone without consulting both sides and stakeholder groups to solicit nominations and include those voices in the selection process. I am willing to lead but unwilling to continue processes that I believe weaken our democracy and the performance of our state.
Have you ever been a landlord? If so, could you share details of what type of property you owned or own?
I don’t know the first thing about being a landlord, but my husband separately owns two houses that have other people living in them. He does not charge rent for either so I’m not sure whether that meets your criteria.
What housing policy have you either sponsored or voted on has been the most meaningful and why?
For too long, politicians in Oregon – state and local – have said one thing and done another when it comes to housing. They talk about the need for affordable housing yet pass regulations, rules, taxes, fees, and zoning that makes housing more expensive and less available. Simply spending tax dollars on worthwhile housing programs and publicly subsidized housing, does not make you an effective advocate for more affordable housing of all types for more Oregonians. As governor, I will work with people who know how to build housing of all kinds to make more housing available at an affordable cost for as many Oregonians as possible.
What do you believe are the specific causes of Oregon’s homelessness crisis?
There are as many causes for homelessness as there are people on the street. There is no one size fits all solution because there is no one cause of the problem. The deepest roots of homelessness are in the complete failure of our mental health system, the lack of affordable housing, and our unwillingness to deal with the scourge of hard drug addiction in Oregon. I believe Democrats are right that we need more services, shelters and long-term housing options but Republicans are right that we must hold people accountable and not encourage or support lawlessness.
But that is not the question you asked. You asked what is the cause of the homelessness crisis, and that is a different answer because the causes of homelessness are not why it’s become a crisis. It’s become a crisis because we have elected too many feckless politicians who would rather talk about homelessness than do something about it and who go home at night unconcerned by the number of those who are sleeping on the streets with destroyed lives as the problem continues to erode our communities and their safety. That problem ends with me because my frustration with the say-everything, do-nothing class of politicians who run this state has driven me to run for governor. Hopefully, enough Oregonians will vote for me so we can get things done.
What is a metric you will use to gauge your administration’s success on homelessness? What is a reasonable timetable for meeting that metric?
We must end tent cities and reduce the number of people living unsheltered on the streets – the point in time count is one metric. We need to stand up designated camping areas and build more safe shelters. I think a reasonable goal is a 50% reduction in unsheltered homelessness in two years. There will never be accountability if we don’t set specific goals and align policies and money to achieve them. In terms of housing, we need to build around 30,000 new housing units a year for the next twenty years to address Oregon’s politician-created housing supply shortage which has created our housing affordability crisis.
What type of homeless shelters are the most effective? Low barrier? Or those that require something from residents? Where should they be located?
We need to stop judging shelters based on how effective they are in leading to permanent solutions. Housing first advocates are correct that there are so many problems that will not get solved until someone has a stable roof over their head. But they are wrong that we must start by putting a permanent roof over someone’s head, regardless of their existing problems. Their approach has us wasting years building $400,000 a door apartment complexes for 100 people as thousands of people wait on the street for permanent solutions. We need to reverse that dynamic. Shelters are temporary solutions, but they are incredibly effective in keeping people from dying on the streets. We need to start by getting everyone off the streets and into safe shelter as we continue to pursue the long-term strategies that can get more affordable housing into our market. Therefore, there need to be a range of shelter options from high to low barrier, with immediate mental health and drug treatment availability and particular support for women with children. Now. This is not as hard as some would say, if we truly decide that saving lives and preserving our community are our most important values. The streets should not be our waiting room for reform.
Was Project Turnkey a good idea? Should it be expanded?
Project Turnkey was a very short-term idea that is being turned into an ongoing mistake. Buying out motel and hotel rooms all over the state and filling them with homeless people only creates more problems. Many of the nonprofits who are being left in charge will likely be unable to sustain services once the federal and state funds stop. It is an unsustainable model. I get why this seems like an easy way for politicians to spend money on the problem, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problems and fails to anticipate the new ones it creates. When the state starts throwing money around, it can have unforeseen effects on local businesses and their communities.
How would you suggest helping people move beyond homeless shelters and into more permanent housing?
Simply handing someone who has been living on the streets a key to an apartment isn’t realistic. People need plans to address their specific challenges – mental health, drugs, addiction, poverty, job-skills, health care, etc. to help them prepare and transition to independent living. We need to combine compassion with personal responsibility. The Bybee Lakes Hope Center in Portland, which I helped create, provides an instructive and real-life response to this question. The purpose of Bybee Lakes is to provide shelter and, equally as important, help people to transition to independent living and permanent housing. Bybee Lakes is a great example because it has transformed a monstrous waste of government spending and turned it into a productive service for the community. It focuses on meeting people where they are and giving out equal parts hope and responsibility to help homeless people get their feet back under them.
Should people camping illegally face citations or criminal charges?
First, we must understand that camping on the streets is illegal. The law is the law. But we now have more shelters for people to go to than we have people using them. We need to use the law as a tool to drive people to shelters. The idea is not to punish people living on the streets, it’s to use the opportunity to get them the help they need. If we’re not willing to enforce the law, we’re not going to clean up our streets and help everyone we seek to help, including both the homeless and the broader community. We need to approach homelessness not just as an individual problem, but as a threat to our community as a whole.
How would you address homelessness that is affecting areas outside of the Portland metro region?
The same way I would address the homeless problem in the metro region, just with more awareness that in smaller communities there are less available options. Also, outside of the metro area, the repercussions of not dealing well with homelessness are felt more immediately. No matter where you live, I have three objectives to address the crisis. First, set a plan to end dangerous and unregulated camping in public places by creating more safe, designated camping areas and more emergency shelters with access to life-saving services. Oregon cannot continue to use public places as a waiting room for services and/or housing. This failed approach is dangerous and inhumane. Second, honestly address the role mental illness, drugs, addiction, and lawlessness play in the homeless crisis. This will include working to repeal the failed experiment to legalize hard drugs; supporting law enforcement; and mounting a full court press to provide services to those who need them, combined with job-training to ensure people are placed on the road to recovery, healing, and economic independence. Third, end Oregon’s politician-created housing supply crisis so every Oregonian of any income level can afford to live here. Oregon needs to build 580,000 new housing units over the next two decades just to close our housing supply deficit and keep up with population growth. I will get the politicians and outdated rules, regulations, and fees out of the way so we can fast-track construction and reduce the cost of building all types of housing options so every Oregonian can afford a roof over their head and a place to call home.
You have said that human-caused climate change is real and should be a concern. The largest segment of greenhouse gas emissions — nationally and in Oregon — come from transportation. Do you support widening highways as a strategy to ease congestion? What specific steps will you take as governor to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles?
Of course I would increase highway capacity when necessary to more efficiently move vehicles through our highways. The more we maintain efficient flow, the less emissions will be released. I believe vehicle emission standards must be addressed federally to keep Oregon businesses competing on a level playing field.
Gov. Kate Brown signed Executive Order 20-04 in 2020, instituting declining caps on greenhouse gas emissions from some sources. Do you plan to rescind that order? If so, please describe any policy you would seek to replace it with. If not, how would you build on Brown’s order?
Yes, I’d rescind that order in a heartbeat. Governor Brown’s ill-conceived executive order was intended to implement her failed cap-and-trade plan through regulatory fiat after she was unable to get it through the legislature. The governor should not be usurping legislative authority just because she can’t get her way.
As Oregon’s independent governor, I will lead the climate fight with practical, common-sense solutions: better forest management, green energy, and greater innovation in emission-reducing technologies. Democrats are right – we need to do more to reduce carbon pollution. But Republicans are right too – we don’t need to destroy good paying jobs and rural economies to do it.
I’ll put Oregonians to work in the woods to better manage our forests, with thinning, controlled burns, and sustainable forestry practices. In addition to better forest management, I will continue pushing Oregon into a green energy future, including protecting the 100% carbon free hydro that provides roughly 50% of our current electricity needs. Like Kate Brown, Tina Kotek wants to tear down critical carbon-free hydro, damaging our regional economy, Eastern Oregon agriculture and vital river transportation. The proposal to take out four Snake River dams could raise energy costs by up to 25%. Oregonians can’t afford that! I will defend our state’s clean and abundant hydro supplies.
Would you support any restrictions to accessing abortions? (For example, late term abortions)
Would you support a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to access an abortion in the state constitution?
What years did you serve on the Planned Parenthood board? Why is this an issue that is so important to you? You have mentioned it’s a “bedrock” issue, could you offer more context?
Betsy served on the board of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette from 1987-1993.
It is a fundamental right. As a woman, I don’t need to be asked why. I felt so strongly about it that I left the Republican party over it many years ago and I will continue to stand for a woman’s right to choose in the future.
Would you veto any legislation that attempted to restrict abortion access?
Yes, Oregon is clear where it stands and so am I.
Do you support using Oregon taxpayer dollars, for example the $15 million Oregon legislators set aside to create a reproductive health equity fund, to pay for abortions for residents who live outside of Oregon?
I am pro-choice. I support reproductive health clinics’ ability to provide a full range of services, but I think Oregon tax dollars should be spent on Oregonians.
What would you do if, while serving as governor, the federal government enacted a federal abortion ban?
The Supreme Court has given states the right to decide their laws governing abortion. As governor, I will always protect and defend Oregon’s right to choose, in law or in the constitution.
What is your position on gender-affirming care?
This is a complex and sensitive physical and mental health issue, especially for young people and their families. I am suspicious and concerned about the agenda that appears to be politicizing what should be an issue for medical professionals and families.
As governor, if future Supreme Court rulings reverse the legalization of gay marriage nationally, would you support legislation locally to do the same? Would you support a constitutional amendment to protect the right in Oregon?
No, I would not support restrictions on gay marriage. Yes, I would support a constitutional amendment to protect the right to gay marriage in Oregon.
Do you believe that Measure 110 (the 2020 ballot measure decriminalizing low-level drug possession) needs to be repealed?
Absolutely. Ballot Measure 110 has created an incredible mess. People are literally dying while state government fails to show up with the services this ballot measure promised. I opposed BM 110 and will work to repeal this failed experiment. But, until it’s repealed or replaced, Oregonians need the treatment and recovery programs they were promised — it’s life and death playing out on our streets.
If so, would you commit to attempting to do so via a vote of the people? How would you help expand access to treatment and other services absent the funding set out in the measure?
BM 110 was passed by the people and should be repealed by the people. It was never necessary to legalize hard drugs to provide treatment funding from cannabis taxes. This was the deception behind the law. Despite this large, dedicated funding source, state government has completely failed to stand up the addiction treatment promised under BM 110, with, so far, zero accountability from Governor Brown for this deadly failure. As governor, I would make sure the money doesn’t go out without accountability metrics, fair geographic distribution and appropriate timelines for measuring success. This started out as a political debacle that must not end as a treatment debacle.
If not, do you believe the Measure is working as intended? What steps will you take to more quickly ensure that the intentions of voters are being met regarding referrals/access to treatment?
No, the failures of the rollout of BM 110 are well-documented. Oregonians are once again suffering due to the ineffective implementation of state law. As governor, I will not deflect responsibility to get Oregonians the services they need as Gov. Kate Brown is doing. But that’s months from now. I believe Gov. Brown should immediately convene agency leaders, legislative leaders, addiction recovery leaders and law enforcement leaders to hammer out an emergency plan to stand up services as promised. Voters took a risk in approving this law, now government is proving its promises were a lie and its reality devastating.
Do you think Oregon’s gun laws are too strict, too loose, or just right? What, if any, changes would you suggest?
Like most responsible gun owners, I believe that, in a society of increasing deadly gun violence by criminals, the mentally ill and disturbed kids, we must do more to keep guns away from people who should not have them.
I am a lifelong responsible gun owner and collector. As a state lawmaker for 20 years, I supported the rights of law-abiding gun owners and have defended the Second Amendment. On this important issue – protecting lives and respecting individual liberties – too many politicians would rather fight than find common ground. One extreme wants to take away all guns, restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens and defund the police. That is a non-starter. The other extreme would do nothing and hope the mental health crisis and violence impacting our society, especially among young men, will simply go away. That is unacceptable.
As Oregon’s independent governor, I will lead with practical solutions to keep guns away from those who should not have them. As a Second Amendment supporter, I have the credibility to find common ground on gun safety while far-left Tina Kotek will only drive people further apart. I will support and enforce a stronger background check system, ensuring the integration of information across jurisdictions and appropriately integrating access to juvenile and school information. I will also support raising the age to buy certain weapons from 18 to 21. We can do more in the areas of mental health care and school and community safety if rational people come together in a bipartisan manner to focus on solutions. These are practical ideas that will improve public safety. I’m the only candidate for governor who could lead a reasonable, productive conversation that combines mental health, social services, law enforcement and gun safety.
Would you support a law similar to what California just passed allowing individual gun violence survivors to sue manufacturers?
Have you or do you plan to endorse Measure 114, which would ban high-capacity magazines and require a completed background check and safety course to purchase a gun?
No. We need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, kids and the mentally ill. Measure 114 will not accomplish this. It is another attempt by the far left to take as many guns as they can away from law-abiding gun owners instead of focusing on actually reducing gun violence. The answer to solving gun violence is not to put additional restrictions on law-abiding gun owners or to saddle law enforcement with an unworkable, unbelievably costly and time-consuming bureaucratic process that keeps them from doing their jobs on the street.
Oregon’s public defense system has been in crisis for much of the last year, leaving people without their constitutional right to an attorney. What specific policies would you employ to address the problem? Are there solutions you would not support (Such as more funding? Making trial level public defender state employees? Etc.)
The chaos and dysfunction in Oregon’s public defense system has reached a crisis and is jeopardizing justice for those accused of crimes and public safety for the entire state. Oregon needs a complete overhaul. This agency is a complete mess due to a long record of serious mismanagement. We are literally releasing people without trial because our public defense system is in shambles. As governor, I would appoint a bipartisan commission of criminal justice, public safety, and crime victims to report within 90 days recommendations to me and the chief justice of the state supreme court to overhaul our broken system.
During your career as a lawmaker, what specific steps have you taken, or can you point to, that would have prevented the public defense system from breaking down as it has now?
I have been a stanch advocate for funding law enforcement and our criminal justice system at a time in which most of my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus have been fooled by the false logic of defunding the police and releasing criminals. I’ve helped build budgets that include increased support for our criminal justice system and advocated for reform at every opportunity. One of the reasons I left the Democratic Party to run for governor as an independent is that we shouldn’t have to make a choice between protecting a woman’s right to choose and protecting public safety.
If elected governor, would you continue or repeal the current moratorium on the death penalty? Why?
As governor, I will enforce Oregon’s death penalty in cases where a judge or jury deems it appropriate for a heinous crime. Oregonians have twice voted on and affirmed our death penalty. It’s time for liberal politicians to stop trying to overturn it or subvert it by letting dangerous criminals out of prison.
Voters in Multnomah County approved a universal preschool measure during the pandemic. Do you feel that the private-public partnership model they plan to use could be a fit for families statewide? As governor, would you support legislation to expand free preschool access in the state?
I’m suspicious of the assumptions behind the question. Of course I would be in favor of expanding preschool access and I understand affordability is everything to giving children a head start, but Multnomah County’s program is a disaster from start to finish. It is only a model for failure. It establishes way too high of a tax rate, giving Multnomah County the dubious honor of having the highest individual tax rates of any county in the country and fails to connect early education to the school system as a whole. There is no curriculum, there is no plan, there are no measurables. It is exactly what I would not do.
Oregon voters will decide whether the state constitution should guarantee “cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care” as a fundamental right. If voters do pass the measure, what would you do to implement it — and how would you pay for that?
I oppose government-run health care and I oppose plans to raise taxes to declare health care a universal right. We must promote innovation and efficiency in health care and protect the relationship between doctors and patients. However, as Oregon’s independent governor, I will govern on behalf of Oregonians and if they choose to pass the measure, I will of course implement it if there is a financially feasible way to do so. From what I have seen, there is currently no feasible way to pay for such a program. Oregon’s track record of big, new program implementation is abysmal.
What’s the most important thing Oregon should do to mitigate the ongoing harm caused by COVID-19?
We made many mistakes during the pandemic, including closing our schools for far too long, putting teachers ahead of seniors in the vaccination line – and then not requiring schools to reopen, mandating business closures repeatedly and for far too long, and requiring businesses to be the enforcers of state mandates. Of the many lessons we learned during the pandemic, the greatest lessons were how important it is for our kids to be in the classroom and how important it is for the state to be a partner with businesses. I’ve repeatedly asked if there was a restauranteur in the room when Gov. Brown decided to close down all the restaurants overnight. We can’t make these decisions that have the potential to impact people’s entire livelihoods without issue experts or industry representatives in the room. As Oregon’s independent governor, I will ensure that when decisions impacting certain groups or stakeholders are made that there are representatives of those groups in the room. Under Gov. Johnson, all voices will have a seat at the table and all voices will be heard.
Oregon lags other states when it comes to the percentage of kids who start kindergarten with all their childhood vaccinations, making Portland a known potential hotspot for measles outbreaks. Do you support continuing to allow broad philosophical exemptions to childhood vaccination, or narrowing the grounds for exemption?
While I am personally supportive of vaccines and recognize the vital role they play in keeping our kids and our communities safe, I believe that parents and families should be able to make the decisions that are right for their kids.
Do you support making COVID-19 vaccination a requirement for public school attendance? For what ages?
No. I don’t believe the government has the right to tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies, or with our kids. Making covid-19 vaccination a requirement for public school attendance is unnecessary nanny-state overreach. Parents and teachers should run our schools and make the right decisions for their kids, not bureaucrats and politicians. I have faith they will make those decisions well when government focuses on giving out consistent, reliable information. Currently, we are undermining trust by providing sporadic, contradictory and unreliable directives.
What role should the state play in moderating the effects of inflation on working class Oregonians? What steps would you take that aren’t being taken now?
Oregon is getting too expensive for everyone but the well-off while also being hostile or indifferent to jobs and businesses. Even before inflation began hammering everyone, Oregon’s cost of living was rising faster than most people could afford – especially housing. Oregon has a housing affordability crisis because we have a housing supply crisis created by politicians who think they know how to build housing better than actual homebuilders. At the same time, Oregon is chasing away small and large businesses – from technology jobs at Intel to blue collar and natural resource related jobs in rural communities.
As governor, I will get the politicians out of the way to increase the supply of all types of housing to reduce the cost of housing. And whether you make wood chips, computer chips, potato chips or fish and chips – I’ll be on your side. I will support jobs in farming, forestry, ranching and fishing. I will streamline taxes, regulations and permitting. I will work relentlessly to keep and recruit new jobs and businesses. l will drive improvements in education to ensure employees have the skills they need and employers have the workforce they need to succeed.
Should Oregon design a safety net benefit for people with long COVID who are limited in their ability to work?
I would need to know a lot more about this idea before taking a position. I remain hesitant to believe that there is a state government solution, regulation, tax, or program for every problem.
How would you support the continued growth of the semiconductor industry in Oregon? What concrete steps would you take?
Yes. In our first debate, Tina Kotek said she had no idea why Intel chose to invest in new jobs and manufacturing in Ohio instead of Oregon. She has to be the only one who doesn’t know. The semiconductor industry needs more land, fewer regulations and taxes and a better education system to grow in Oregon. That was the finding of the report. I took it upon myself to reach out to senior management at Intel and discovered the simplest solution from the governor’s office would have been to just answer the damn phone when the state’s largest employer calls. As governor, I would lead aggressively in all these areas to keep and grow businesses in Oregon. I believe business and jobs are a good thing for our state.
A recent state audit found there should be more oversight and accountability on school spending. How would you as Governor make sure schools were spending funds wisely?
Despite billions more being spent on K-12 education each year, Oregon schools continue to shortchange too many kids. Our priorities are screwed up. We’ve become better at legalizing drugs than graduating kids from high school. I was a budget writer for most of my years in the legislature – I know better than either of my opponents where state money is going and where there is waste. As governor, I will hold my staff and state agencies to the same level of scrutiny I expected as chair of the Ways & Means Committee. Under Governor Johnson, when we direct funds to our schools, we will know where it is going and whether it’s being used effectively and efficiently.
Do you have a graduation rate goal? What do you plan to do as governor to get there? What do you think should be required for an Oregon high school diploma?
I find it extremely troubling that, in the face of a decade of school and student performance declines, Kate Brown and Tina Kotek caved to the teachers’ unions by actually reducing academic standards, eliminating the graduation requirement for reading, writing and math. Under Kate Brown and Tina Kotek, high school diplomas have turned into participation ribbons. I voted against this misguided, detrimental policy. The department of education’s own report just detailed the need to change graduation requirements in the wake of the governor’s capitulation, clearly indicating that our schools know that the politicians are standing in the way of getting the job done for our kids.
As Oregon’s independent governor, I will immediately restore academic standards and lost graduation requirements. I will ensure that the state respects local control of our schools so that parents’ and teachers’ voices can be heard where they really matter. I will demand accountability for per pupil spending and improvements in student achievement. I will appoint educators who will challenge – not defend – the failing status quo. When necessary, I will take-on the powerful teachers’ union to put the needs of students first. I believe in giving parents more options for their children’s education including charter schools, home schooling, and other alternative education opportunities such as career and technical education opportunities.
Should there be more state funding for public higher education? If so, specifically what should that money go toward? If not, what should be cut or how should public universities and colleges continue to deal with rising costs?
Yes, there should be more state funding for higher education. Higher education must be more affordable for Oregon families. As the state cuts funding for our institutions of higher education, inevitably, tuition and fees increase at a rate that makes it impossible for lower/middle class families to afford. I think Oregon should look at the model that other states like Georgia have used successfully of directing lottery dollars to in-state scholarships based on qualifying performance and continued qualification. While there are many ways to get at this, the most important thing is we need to take responsibility for lowering the cost of in-state tuition.
Currently, the legislature forces each of our state higher education institutions to compete against the others for funding, surrendering the opportunity for a comprehensive plan that can create centers of excellence and support the needs of the state as a whole. I would also go beyond the concept of higher education to include community college and vocational training. Skills development doesn’t happen just in our state universities and we need to give people affordable access to the education necessary to secure the jobs they need to provide for themselves and Oregon families.
What is the current role of higher education in Oregon? Should our colleges and universities be changing to build the workforce? Why and how?
I don’t believe we have an integrated plan connecting K-12 to higher education, community colleges or vocational training in Oregon. What we have is a hodgepodge of institutions all seeking state funds under a system of complete lack of accountability. Our post-secondary public education system is in need of an overall vision and a workable plan to help provide the skills and education necessary for all Oregonians to be ready for the jobs that need them. I believe this failure stems from the extent to which K-12 public sector unions drive our education agenda to the detriment of all other educational institutions.
As a state lawmaker, I helped create OMIC, the Oregon Manufacturing and Innovation Center in Columbia County. OMIC is a hub of innovation and education between major Oregon manufacturers, colleges, and universities, and it is helping more of our young people find a path to quality jobs in manufacturing.
Much of Oregon is experiencing a 1,200-year drought that is exacerbating conflicts over water rights and resources. How would you address the state’s problems with water scarcity? Would you support any new restrictions on water rights or limitations on water allocation for large developments such as luxury resorts or data centers?
Under Kate Brown, Oregon has failed to strategically invest in the policies and infrastructure we sorely need to make sure adequate water supplies are available for all Oregonians. While more than a third of our state has faced severe drought conditions or worse for the last two decades, our leaders have allowed partisan agendas and extremist politics to stand in the way of dealing with this very serious problem. That will change when I am governor.
Water policy is complex, and every project needs to be decided based on its own merits. When individual projects are proposed by local communities, I will ask whether they make sense from a resource perspective. Is there sufficient resource to support it? And if there isn’t, has a mitigation plan been proposed? I will not bow to pressure from lobby groups to make snap decisions about winners and losers when it comes to allocating water resources.
As governor, I will sit down with the farmers, the communities, the fisheries, the sportsmen, the environmentalists, the tribes, the businesses – everyone – to craft long-term, common-sense policies and, most importantly, to identify where modernization, innovation and infrastructure investments must be made. I will work with regional leaders to prioritize actions in their local communities, and I will demand that state bureaucrats follow through on the agreements they’ve reached with local leaders.
That has not been case under the current state leadership. The legislature funded some distinct projects, but they were advanced without adequate collaboration and followed the wish list of left-leaning special interest groups. There’s no question that our laws need to change; the real question is how do they need to change, who needs to be involved in that conversation and what data are we missing in order to plot the path forward toward an actual strategic water plan for the state of Oregon.
As a state lawmaker who has been very involved in water projects from Umatilla County to Tillamook County, I can say with certainty that everything needs to begin with the right policy leadership, better run state agencies and more predictable budgets. Local partners need to be at the table. We need a statewide plan that builds up from a base of regional planning, with recognition that the water problems in Umatilla, Tillamook and Klamath counties are more disparate than the different climates of those areas might suggest, and localized policies that recognize those differences have a far better chance of success than centralized planning. Local leaders tell me they want a more reliable partner in state government, with a clear vision for what can be done and consistent administration of programs. As governor, I will deliver that.
Finally, we must also work in concert with both the United States government and the sovereign tribes that are all affected by what the state does or doesn’t do.
I have a proven track record of a pragmatic, action-focused approach on water policy. As a state lawmaker, I strongly supported critical water and irrigation infrastructure investments across the state. As governor, I will make sure Oregon stops being reactionary when it comes to drought and water policies, and I will drive a balanced, proactive and collaborative approach that will ensure all Oregonians have access to safe, clean and adequate water supplies for decades to come.
Residents, conservationists, and farmers across rural Oregon have been reporting falling groundwater levels — a major threat to the future of these areas. In your role overseeing the Oregon Water Resources Department, what would you do to ensure everyone continues to have access to groundwater for generations to come?
As I have traveled around the state, countless Oregonians have told me that they feel like nobody is home when they call on state government. This has been especially true on water policy. Regional leaders have worked hard to develop localized water conservation plans to address supply and ESA concerns. They are working with the people who have the most at stake – the local residents who rely on water for their lives and their livelihoods. The Umatilla Basin Project is a great example of what can get done when local stakeholders work together. The problem, many local leaders tell me, is that they can’t get the state to follow through on the plans they develop. That will stop with me. As governor, I will make sure local communities have a strong voice in water policy and infrastructure investments. And I will direct my agencies to prioritize engagement with regional leaders and to work collaboratively to implement the regional plans. Under Gov. Johnson, agencies like the Water Resources Department will be absolutely clear that their mission is to serve Oregon communities.
Groundwater is a particularly difficult issue. No one can see the resource, and that leads to disagreement on the science of what is occurring. Further, there is accelerating demand for land development in many water critical areas. As a result, there is no consensus around the best approach, and a sore lack of leadership. As governor, I will hear from all perspectives, and then I will take the lead to establish an overall policy framework for groundwater protection. Most importantly, I will direct the Water Resources Department to study every basin, and to make sure local communities are engaged every step of the way, including when it comes to defining the problems and devising the solutions. That is the only way we will achieve buy-in, so we can move beyond the conflict and inaction, and actually address groundwater challenges across the state.
The state has known that nitrates have been polluting groundwater in the Lower Umatilla Basin for 30 years, and recent testing shows that the water is unsafe to drink for many residents. What would you do to address nitrate pollution in the Lower Umatilla Basin and across the state?
You are right. We have known for years about nitrate pollution in the Lower Umatilla Basin. Oregon DEQ has had responsibility for dealing with this problem, but year after year they’ve put water safety in the Umatilla Basin – and other core responsibilities – on a back burner as they built a bigger regulatory empire with programs like Kate Brown’s ill-conceived cap and trade scheme. Frankly, I am outraged that DEQ went so far as to deprioritize funding nitrate reduction efforts, knowing full well that safe drinking water was at risk.
As governor, I will direct the DEQ to prioritize nitrate contamination in the Lower Umatilla and in other impacted areas, and I will assign a member of my cabinet to oversee implementation of the program, including ensuring there’s adequate money for as long as it takes to get the job done. It will take time to fully resolve this issue, but we can’t wait to help the families who can’t safely give their kids a glass of water from their kitchen sinks. I will direct DEQ to create programs that provide immediate assistance to those families, including funding water filtration systems for low-income families in the impacted areas.
No Oregonian should have to worry about the safety of the water that flows to their home. As governor, I will prioritize ensuring every Oregon family has access to safe, clean and adequate water supplies.