Big strides in environment and health care mean two promises kept
By Ryan Kost
Published on Friday, July 13th, 2012 at 2:53 p.m.
Summer is usually a slow time for politics, and yet Gov. John Kitzhaber recently solidified two major political victories. PolitiFact Oregon thought that made it time to update the Kitz-O-Meter, our tool for tracking the governor's 2010 campaign promises.
Two years ago, the governor made lofty promises that hit just about every part of state government, from health care and education to environmental and energy policies. Perhaps one of his most ambitious goals was to retool the way Oregon delivered health care -- for the second time.
Longtime Oregonians might recall the governor's first successful push to dramatically change health care for low-income folks in this state by creating the Oregon Health Plan. During the campaign for his third term, he said he'd do it again. He promised voters that, if elected, he would use the Obama administration's new health care law to "fundamentally (shift) the way health care is organized and delivered ... and ask for a broad waiver from the federal government to give us permission to actually do that."
When we last checked, the governor had managed to get the bulk of his reform through the state Legislature. Lawmakers passed two pieces of legislation, creating a health insurance exchange system and setting up a system of "coordinated teams" of doctors, nurses, dentists and other providers to focus on prevention before more expensive emergency care is needed.
Since then, the governor has managed to secure the federal waiver that he promised -- along with some $1.9 billion for the state over the next five years. The Supreme Court also voted to uphold the bulk of the national law, meaning the state doesn't need to rework any of the plans. We upgraded this promise to a Promise Kept.
On the energy and environmental fronts, the governor promised voters he would create a 10-year plan "that integrates the state emission reduction goal, the Renewable Energy Standard, aggressive conservation and energy efficiency strategies, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and the Renewable Fuel Standard into a comprehensive state Energy and Climate Strategic Plan."
Kitzhaber made good on this promise in early June when he released his draft plan and opened it for a 60-day public review. The plan offers a number of legislative and executive changes. It remains to be seen whether they'll be implemented -- particularly the legislative pieces, which require House and Senate votes. Still, while the success of the plan is open to question, for the purposes of the Kitz-O-Meter, this is also a Promise Kept.
Closely related, the governor also made progress on his promise to integrate state policies related to climate change and energy by appointing policy advisers to coordinate the efforts of state agencies. Given how amorphous this promise is, we want to wait and see how this set-up progresses. For now, we're calling this promise In the Works.
Our final check was the governor's performance on diversifying his staff. In the last year he's appointed hundreds of individuals to state boards and commissions. However, as was the case during out last check, Latinos were underrepresented relative to their representation statewide. He was able to maintain gains for other minority groups. This promise remains In the Works.
A majority of the governor's promises remain unrated, many of which concern statewide education. We'll be looking at his progress in that area during and after future legislative sessions, especially now that Susan Castillo, the state's last superintendent of public instruction, has officially left office.
We want to hear your suggestions and comments. Email the Oregon Truth-O-Meter with feedback and with claims you'd like to see checked. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.