Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber held a summit meeting today to discuss poverty with special guest Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK. The fact that Kitzhaber was discussing poverty at all half-way into a third term is noteworthy. This is the same governor, after all, who proposed lifetime TANF limits on Oregonians more stringent than anything Newt Gingrich pushed as he tried to dismantle America's safety net as U.S. House Speaker. At the same time, in an effort to balance Oregon's budget, Kitzhaber proposed tax breaks for corporations. In other words, he was willing to balance Oregon's budget on the backs of our state's must vulnerable. It is sometimes hard to imagine this is the same man who fought so hard to expand health care in the 1980s. I hope Governor Kitzhaber learned something today from Sister Simone, one of our nation's great moral leaders. The governor talked movingly in his last State of the State Address about the need to confront growing economic inequality in Oregon but those words have not been matched with bold new policies. Will our governor end another four years in office with no concrete efforts to reduce poverty or will he answer the challenge raised by faith leaders and others to make a real difference in the lives of Oregonians who have suffered because of bad economic polices nationally and indifference locally?
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