State Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, said he heard some good things in the governor’s state-of-the-state address while Malheur County’s other state lawmaker, Rep. Lynn Findley said he has his eyes on several new bills. (Malheur Enterprise file photo)
SALEM – State Sen. Cliff Bentz said Gov. Kate Brown’s pledge to support vocational and technical education in high schools is good news but pointed out it is a concept that has already been embraced locally.
Brown pledged to spend $300 million on career and technical education programs as part of her new “Future Ready Oregon” initiative in her state-of-the-state address earlier this month.
“I will ensure every single school district offers hands-on learning opportunities for every single student,” Brown said.
Brown said in her speech that in the last school year 86 percent of students in Oregon who were involved in “hands on” training, such as career and technical education, graduated from high school on time.
Bentz, a newly appointed state senator from Ontario, said he was encouraged by the governor’s words.
“She was saying we have got to go and do a better job of training kids while they are in high school and a better job of linking them up with jobs when they graduate,” said Bentz.
Vocational training education is a subject that Bentz believes in and he pointed to Malheur County’s Poverty to Prosperity nonprofit as proof the curriculum works.
“I was pleased to hear how much of her speech is a reflection of what we are already doing,” Bentz said.
State Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, agrees with Bentz.
“I was pleased to hear the governor support technical education,” Findley said. “We have students and not everyone is suited to go right to college. We need to provide the education for these students in career fields.”
Poverty to Prosperity focuses on five initiatives, including providing career technical education programs. Poverty to Prosperity, overseen by a five-member board of local residents, also aims to expand industrial land, retain local businesses, boost the agriculture industry and develop natural resources in an effort to help the economy.
Bentz said this year more than 300 local students are participating in the technical education program.
The governor also addressed the issue of housing in Oregon as a major challenge.
“In all of our communities, even if someone is qualified for a job, they may not be able to live near it. It can be just as difficult to find housing in Pendleton as it is in Portland. That is a major threat to our continued growth and economic prosperity,” Brown said.
Bentz said the governor “got it right” regarding the housing dilemma.
“I am happy to hear she is focusing on that. It is truly one of the greatest challenges we face in Oregon and it is also a national challenge,” said Bentz.
Bentz said the problem is especially acute in rural areas.
“In small communities where wages are low people who are earning them can’t afford to pay rent,” said Bentz.
Findley said there are currently two bills in the legislature addressing first-time home buyers and assistance in getting into a home.
“I am hoping to see one or both make it to the floor,” Findley said.
In her speech Brown said she will guide her regional solutions team to link with local communities, businesses and developers to tackle the housing problem.
Bentz said he wished the governor was more specific in her speech about the state attracting more businesses.
“Our tax structure needs a lot of work and she didn’t mention that,” said Bentz.
Findley said he wanted to see the governor discuss the cap-and-trade issue.
Two bills deal with climate change. Companies emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide yearly would be required to buy credits to cover each ton of emissions. The companies would buy these from a state auction or on the open market.
Findley is concerned the issue is too complex to take up in a short session that concludes in mid-March.
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