Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Hundreds of Oregon business, community and political leaders will celebrate the improving economy while wondering what comes next on Monday at the Oregon Convention Center.

The 13th annual Oregon Leadership Summit will take place as the state has more than recovered all the job losses during the Great Recession. But it is also facing rising costs that some business leaders say could derail the progress. They include potential 2016 ballot measures to increase taxes on many businesses and raise the minimum wage, and a projected 12 percent increase in Public Employee Retirement System premium payments made by state and local governments.

The potential ballot measures are supported by labor, social justice and other organizations that argue children, seniors and low-income workers will benefit from the increases.

Those at the summit are expected to discuss the issues, but not recommend any alternatives for the 2016 Oregon Legislature to consider. The Oregon Constitution limits sessions in even-numbered years to just 35 days, which is not considered enough time to tackle such complex issues.

“What we’ll be doing is laying the groundwork for the 2017 Oregon Legislature,” says Duncan Wyse, president of the Oregon Business Council (OBC), which represents many of the state’s leading business organizations and companies. The OBC staffs the Oregon Business Plan, which is developed each year as a blueprint for the state economy and embraced at the annual summits.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is scheduled to give the keynote address, which is traditionally delivered by the governor. This will be the first time for Brown, who replaced former Gov. John Kitzhaber after the last summit took place. Many in attendance will be paying attention to what Brown has to say about the pending ballot measures and PERS increases. Kitzhaber had brokered agreements between business and labor leaders in the past to keep such measures off the ballot, and he also supported PERS reforms approved by the Legislature to reduce premiums, most of which were overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court.

“We’ll be looking forward to what Governor Brown has to say,” says Wyse.

The summit will also feature panel discussions on recommendations from previous plans that many participants believe have contributed to the state’s economic recovery. They include increasing international trade, supporting more Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses in the schools, and reviving the natural resources economies of rural Oregon.

Another panel will discuss how to pass a new transportation funding package at the 2017 Oregon Legislature. Many business leaders were disappointed the package stalled during the last session because they believe additional infrastructure investments are needed to reduce congestion and freight costs.

“We need to start agreeing on the package now for it to be ready for the 2017 session,” says Wyse.

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