ONTARIO — State Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, said he was generally pleased with Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s state of the state speech on Monday, particularly Kitzhaber’s support for rural communities.

Kitzhaber pointed out that the state has a balanced budget, in contrast to two years ago, when he took office for a third term, when there was a $3.5 million deficit. About 40,000 new jobs have been created in the state, and the statewide unemployment rate has dropped points, he said.

But despite the improvements in the economy, there must be more done to help those who have been left behind, he added.

“Our great challenge is to ensure that the next phase of Oregon’s economic ‘recovery’ reaches all Oregonians and ends the income stagnation that continues to erode the middle class, exacerbates inequality, and for the first time threatens a generation of Oregonians with the prospect of a declining standard of living,” Kitzhaber said.

He said the term “recovery” loses its meaning if much of rural Oregon continues to suffer from consequences of double-digit unemployment and unemployment for minorities continues to rise.

“I think he has a very, very optimistic agenda,” Bentz said, referring to the state’s Public Employee Retirement System and reducing corrections costs.

Bentz said he was happy that the governor is giving attention to rural economies and has made helping those communities a priority.

With reference to the governor’s comments on changing tax policy on deductions and credits to raise state revenues, Bentz said those issues should be addressed in the context of the whole tax code, not in parts.

Larry Meyer is a news reporter at the Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4813 or by emailing larrym@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com

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