Governor Brown focuses on expanding health care and pandemic response in State of the State address

Governor Kate Brown delivered her State of the State address on Thursday. In the address she focused on expanding access to health care, returning children to school and the continued response to COVID-19. She also addressed the need for expanded broadband access and increased investments in homelessness prevention and affordable housing. 



“If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that everyone, every Oregonian, deserves access to affordable health care,” Brown said. “I have proposed investments in my budget to expand this access to affordable health care, but, I also expect the Biden-Harris administration to help us financially. Together we must ensure that every Oregonian has access to this human right.”

She also spoke about SB 889, which lowered the cost of health care in Oregon by creating a workgroup to create strategies to address the issue. This group has since returned with a framework for patients to pay for the quality of care rather than fee-for-service care.

Brown is also committed to getting children back to school. She has instructed the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to start vaccinating teachers ahead of those 75 and older. This is an effort to address the ongoing struggles children are experiencing living through a global pandemic. 

“I think it’s important to acknowledge that comprehensive distance learning is not working for a lot of kiddos, and it’s not a long-term solution for our kids,” said Dr. Antwon Chavis, a pediatrician at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. “As pediatricians, we can all think of examples of children that are having to log in to distance learning from the parking lots of their school because they don’t have high-speed internet at home, or kids with ADHD or autism that just are not able to engage with a computer screen all day long. We have families that are refugee families, with single parents, and the children aren’t able to engage in their own distance learning and understanding of the education system, and the parents can’t help them either because of language barriers. The pandemic overall is disproportionately impacting families of color, and I am worried because I feel we are at significant risk of really widening the racial disparity of educational outcomes.”

Brown also pledged to advocate for broadband expansion on a national level. She called this service “essential” and said that it needed to be treated the same as electricity.

“My budget invests over $100 million in broadband expansion statewide, with a focus on providing access to communities that have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic, and ensuring that every single school across Oregon is connected to the internet,” she said. “This could be a bridge that helps Oregon mend the urban rural divide. And the disparities are not just a problem here, but across the country. The Biden-Harris administration can help unite this unnecessary division, especially in the West, by providing federal funding for broadband expansion.”

Brown also spoke on the vaccine distribution effort. She the number of vaccine doses distributed per day is around 12,000, since she directed the OHA to speed up the process.

However, according to data from the New York Times, Oregon has only distributed 45% of the doses provided to the state.

Brown also said she has included $250 million in her budget for continued investments in affordable housing, and to address homelessness and rental assistance.

Senate Republicans issued a response to the governor’s address.

“As Republicans, we want to get kids back in school and people back to work so they can provide for their families,” said Sen. Fred Girod, the senate Republican leader. “We want to keep our neighborhoods safe, so people have the opportunity to be their best. Our priority this session will be to solve Oregonians’ most pressing issues. As a caucus, we look forward to introducing legislation that will move Oregon forward and help them recover from the crises we face.”