Ron outlines key housing, health care and equity priorities at Oregon's Leadership Summit

At the state’s Leadership Summit sponsored by the Oregon Business Plan, Ron outlined three key priorities he believes must be addressed to continue Oregon’s economic growth: housing, health care and improved access to capital for businesses owned by women and people of color.

Ron’s responses at this week’s 17th annual statewide meeting held in Portland came to a question by moderator Ruth Williams-Brinkley asking what he -- as an originator of the summit – is focused on that fits this summit’s theme of big questions that Oregon should be focused on.

He started his answer by turning to housing and homelessness.

“America’s housing policy needs a remodel and a comprehensive blueprint to draw up policies that work for everyone from the homeless to the middle class,” he said, noting housing presents a challenge in both urban and rural parts of the state.

As the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, he announced plans to introduce the Decent, Affordable and Safe Housing (DASH) Act. Citing reports of school buses picking up young students in state parks, he said the DASH Act would dedicate resources to get a roof over every child’s head -- with strong oversight to ensure the funds are spent wisely.

He also pointed out his housing strategy includes the biggest expansion ever of the low-income housing tax credit -- America’s largest affordable housing production program –to build more than 500,000 affordable housing units nationally over the next decade. And it includes upcoming legislation that would help first-time homebuyers with targeted tax credits.

Also on Ron’s priority list is rising health care costs, which he likened as effectively an “entrepreneur tax” on many of the small businesses run by Oregonians attending the summit.

Working with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Ron detailed their bipartisan prescription drug pricing bill.

The reforms in that legislation would institute an out-of-pocket cap on prescription drug costs; lower how much Medicare beneficiaries pay in cost-sharing after they reach their annual deductible; implement an optional monthly cap on prescription costs to provide certainty for people facing high drug costs; and require drug companies to repay Medicare if they increase prices faster than inflation.

Ron concluded his answer to Williams-Brinkley’s question with a focus on making access to capital fair for businesses owned by women and people of color. Statistics show both groups receiving disproportionately low levels of capital.

He mentioned his PROGRESS Act, which would expand opportunities for these small businesses by introducing a new first employee tax credit and an investor tax credit to encourage capital investment.

“But let me clear, no one bill, no one person, or one company will be able to solve this problem,” he said.

Ron said women and people of color have told him they have been excluded from conversations that could help them build relationships they need to grow their businesses.

He announced that he is working with Monica Enand, CEO of Zapproved and Board Member of The Oregon Business Council; Rukaiyah Adams of the Meyer Memorial Trust; Stephen Green of Pensole and Pitch Black and other leaders about going around Oregon in 2020 to capture the freshest ideas for long-overdue fixes to this problem.

It’s what I always call the “Oregon Way” -- getting smart people together in the same room,” he said, “not to yell at each other, but to solve this economic growth issue for Oregon.”