Thirty or so Gorge residents braved the early morning fall weather for a chance to hear the Honorable Kate Brown, Oregon's Secretary of State, speak at the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce monthly government affairs breakfast, Sept. 22 at 7:30 a.m.
Introduced by Mayor Arthur Babitz, Brown offered the attendees a concise summary of the work of the many state government divisions under her direction, with a particular focus on increasing efficiencies in all state agencies in response to tight budget constraints.
Acknowledging a commonly occurring obstacle, Brown noted that many people do not know the work done on their behalf by her office.
"I have four external divisions that I am responsible for," said Brown, "State archives, audits, corporations and elections. I also cover the internal Executive division."
Brown came into office in 2008, and has kept a primary mission with three main goals: delivering better results with more transparency from government services to Oregonians; innovating for the future and engaging Oregonians more effectively.
Brown shared specific achievements within each department under her purview.
A newly developing central business registry has been created to more effectively assist businesses and create employment. "It is a one-stop shop for businesses which combines access to corporate registration, department of revenue payroll tax information, and employment department services," said Brown. An additional Oregon business portal is also under construction that will connect businesses with creation, retention and expansion assistance.
According to Brown, one of the greatest challenges facing Oregon is "how to deliver service more effectively and efficiently with increasing financial constraints."
According to Brown, an effective tool for addressing that challenge is found within her audits division.
"Audits allow us to squeeze every dollar we can from the taxes paid by every Oregonian," said Brown. She went on to share a recent success garnered by her staff in identifying $100 million in unpaid or uncollected state taxes within the Oregon Department of Revenue.
"The revenue department has implemented some of our suggestions and has been able to bring in $30 million of that lost revenue. That is significant," said Brown. "Audits are one of my loves."
Under the elections division, Brown has prioritized increasing successful voter registration and creating accessible voting options for disabled Oregonians, along with other groups with lower voter registration numbers.
"At our site, www.oregonvote.org, you can register, track your ballots, change party registrations, update your address information and located drop boxes on election day," Brown said.
Earning her law degree and certificate in environmental law from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Brown began her political career when appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1991.
In 1996, after winning election to two more House terms, Brown won election to the Oregon Senate. Two years later, she was elected Senate Democratic Leader and, in 2004, senators made her the first woman to serve as Oregon's Senate Majority Leader. In 2008, Brown was elected Oregon's 34th Secretary of State. More information on any of the Secretary's programs may be found at: www.sos.state.or.us.