This year has pushed us to our limits. The continuing fallout from COVID-19 and the wildfires have left our families, friends, neighbors and local businesses struggling.
We're all doing what we can to support our communities these days. And, as state treasurer, I'm working with the governor and the legislature to provide relief for small businesses, workers and families who have lost jobs, wages and homes.
But, as we look further down the road, it's important to see the crises of this year also provide valuable lessons as we look to the future.
How we treat one another matters; how we treat this planet matters; and who you support in elections matters.
As we map out a way forward, making sure our state and our people are on solid financial footing has never been more important.
I've always been drawn to these issues. It's why in the state legislature I worked to balance the state's finances and establish a rainy-day fund, preparing for economic challenges just like this one.
It's why one of the first things I did as treasurer was work to cut the outrageous fees the state had been paying to Wall Street. Those efforts helped save Oregonians $500 million so far, and we're looking to bring more business back to Oregon.
Charged with managing the state's investments, we've consistently been ranked one of the top-performing states in the country. That means the state's portfolio — which includes the pensions of hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, worth nearly $100 billion — continues to be smartly managed and grow in value. That's good for our retirees and for taxpayers.
We're also using our influence as a major investor to pressure fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil to get serious about fighting climate change, and we've doubled our investments in clean, renewable energy and green jobs. We will continue to move our state investments out of companies that mistreat workers and into companies that reflect Oregon values.
I'm also focused on helping Oregonians save for our futures. We started BabyGrad and KinderGrad through the Oregon College Savings Plan, putting the first $25 in a College Savings Plan for every Oregon-born baby enrolled before their first birthday or in their kindergarten year, setting those children up for success from the very start.
Studies show that kids are three times more likely to go to college if they have a dedicated savings account, and four times more likely to graduate, regardless of the amount in the account. And I am proud to implement the
OregonSaves program, which has helped 73,000 Oregonians save almost $70 million for retirement so far.
And, when it comes to making sure our workforce is competitive, we've looked at ways the financial systems of the state and our infrastructure needs provide opportunities to create good-paying jobs. By smartly managing our investments and the state's credit and bond ratings, we've been able to issue bonds at low rates to make important investments, like rebuilding our roads and schools.
One of the issues most important to me is making Oregon a more just and equitable place. I'm pursuing public-private partnerships to bring high-speed Internet across Oregon, particularly to our rural communities and disadvantaged neighborhoods. One of the many inequities this pandemic has laid bare has been seeing kids forced to sit in the parking lot of their schools to access WiFi for their class work.
It's clear that Internet access is no luxury, and we should think of it as a utility like electricity and water. And we must work hard to make sure it's available to every home. I'll continue our partnerships with community groups like the Coalition of Communities of Color and the Latino Network, which helped us pass a refundable tax credit through the legislature that means low-income families don't just get a tax break, but actually get money back in their pockets when they save for college.
If I have the honor of serving again as your treasurer, I'll stay focused on improving our state for the long run. Whether it's during years of crises or steady growth, we need to plan for a future that equips every Oregonian with the skills they need for a decent-paying job and a secure retirement.
We need to manage the state's finances through these turbulent times with an eye on the horizon. I hope to earn your support by Nov. 3 and keep working together to move our state forward.
Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, a Democrat, is running for reelection.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.