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Brown's Budget Outlines Her Rural Agenda

Gov. Kate Brown's proposed budget includes more than $247 million for rural infrastructure projects in Oregon and other increased spending to benefit rural residents.

Posted: Dec 7, 2018 9:37 AM
Updated: Dec 7, 2018 9:54 AM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown's proposed budget includes more than $247 million for rural infrastructure projects in Oregon and other increased spending to benefit rural residents.

The Daily Astorian reports there's enthusiasm from observers about Brown's spending plans for rural Oregon, from dams to housing to high-speed internet.

But some advocates and lawmakers worry about other parts of her budget that cut fire protection on forestland, hold steady money for community colleges and increase taxes by $2 billion.

Despite the state's robust overall economic growth, rural Oregon has yet to fully bounce back from the Great Recession.

Rural unemployment has been declining since its peak in 2009, and the state's rural economy is less diverse, making it more vulnerable to shocks. And the populace and workforce in rural areas of Oregon are aging, according to a report last year from the state Employment Department.

Brown wants to boost funding for loan programs and for public-private partnerships to build housing for people who can't find affordable homes in the communities where they work. Brown wants the state to borrow $130 million through bonds to build up to 2,100 affordable homes for communities of color and in rural areas.

The governor has also proposed millions in water projects.

Brown's budget allots $16 million to replace the Wallowa Dam, which is more than a century old and whose operators keep less water than it was built to hold to avoid a failure.

Brown's wish list includes an agricultural workforce center at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton and an industrial trades center at Klamath County Community College in Klamath Falls.

Oregon's 17 community colleges had about 280,000 students in the 2016-17 school year, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. They primarily serve rural areas.

But unless the Legislature raises nearly $2 billion in new taxes for her major education revival plan, Brown's budget would reduce money that community colleges say they need to continue current operations for the next two years.

It would also cut funds to Oregon Promise, which covers tuition for certain students.

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