Salem 2013: Governor's 'State of the State'

Kitzhaber's main focus: the economy

Salem 2013: State of the State

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber kicked off the 77th Oregon Legislative Session Monday with his annual State of the State address in Salem.

There were hints the governor might address gun control and mental health issues in his address, as other governors have done recently.

But except for a moment of silence for victims of gun violence, there wasn't any more mention of the topic.     

Instead, the governor focused on the economy's continued effort at recovery.

"Far too many Oregonians continue to struggle with unemployment, with debt, with rising health care costs and that's the urgency you bring with you to this 77th Legislative Assembly," Kitzhaber said. "And it's that sense of urgency that is at the core of the budget I presented to you last month."

Kitzhaber said Oregon is on the right track -- moving from a $3.5 billion budget deficit in January 2011 to a balanced budget two years later, along with an improved state credit rating.

But he also stressed there is still more work to be done.

"Oregon will not be a good place for any of us to live until it is a good place for all of us to live," Kitzhaber said.

He said while some Oregonians, mainly in the Portland metro area, have enjoyed economic recovery, rural communities, including minorities and the poor, have not.

One issue the governor wants addressed more than anything: education.

He's asking lawmakers to make tough decisions on public pensions and prisons to boost funding for schools.

"While we may have erased our budget deficit, we continue to face serious fiscal constraints -- which means we need to make room in the current budget if we hope to begin to reinvest in the classroom and in critical public services," Kitzhaber said.

The governor said he hopes the bipartisanship shown last session will help make his goals a reality in 2013.

"It is not only possible to disagree agreeably, but to move beyond what divides us and build instead on what unites us: a shared vision of a strong middle class, equal opportunity for every Oregonian in every community in our state, good schools, good jobs and a government that is fiscally responsible and efficient," Kitzhaber said.

The governor said the cost of primary and secondary education is going to increase by more than $1,000 per student in the next two years. And half of that is accounted for by the increased cost of PERS alone.

That's why he says there needs to be changes in the state retirement system.

The State of the State address wasn't the only thing happening at the Capitol on Monday.

New Oregon House and Senate members were sworn in, including Bend state Senator Tim Knopp.

Knopp served as a state representative from 1999 to 2005. He was the House majority leader in the 2003 session.

Several Central Oregon lawmakers will be speaking at what's considered media day at the Oregon Capitol on Tuesday.

Newschannel 21's photographer Steve Kauffman and I will be there covering it. Watch for our reports this week.

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