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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Kitzhaber Boosts Early Learning Programs In Budget Proposal

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber unveiled his 2015-2017 spending plan during a press conference at the state capitol in Salem.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber introduced his two-year spending plan at the state capitol Monday.

The Democrat said his newly unveiled budget proposal makes strategic investments in education. Just over half of Kitzhaber's $18.6 billion spending proposal goes toward education. And the bulk of that is earmarked for K-12 schools.

The governor said he's also making targeted investments to boost kindergarten readiness and to ensure third graders are reading at grade level. Kitzhaber said he used those benchmarks to help craft his budget.

"Instead of simply focusing on a number, we seek to set goals and then ensure that our educational system achieves them,” he said.

Community colleges and universities said the governor's budget proposal falls short of what they need to expand access to higher education.

Kitzhaber said his budget also includes tax relief for low-income workers.

"To ensure that hard work is actually rewarded with a better life…to ensure that when you get more wages, when your income goes up, you actually have more money, not less money in your pocket,” he said.

The bulk of Oregon's general fund revenue comes from personal income taxes.

State lawmakers will have their chance to weigh in on the entire budget proposal during the 2015 legislative session.