Oregon’s new governor sworn in, declares homeless emergency

Jan 8, 2023, 8:17 PM | Updated: Jan 9, 2023, 4:41 pm
Tina Kotek, center, was accompanied by her wife Aimee Wilson, right, as Kotek was sworn in as Orego...

Tina Kotek, center, was accompanied by her wife Aimee Wilson, right, as Kotek was sworn in as Oregon governor at the state Capitol building in Salem, Ore., on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP, Pool)

(Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP, Pool)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s newly sworn-in Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek said Monday at her inauguration that her first order of business will be tackling homelessness, as she unveiled several measures intended to address one of the state’s most pressing issues.

In her inaugural address at the state Capitol in Salem, Kotek said she will declare a homeless state of emergency and sign an executive order to increase housing construction on her first full day in office. She also proposed a $130 million emergency investment to help unsheltered people move off the streets.

“Imagine an Oregon where no one has to live in a tent on the sidewalk,” Kotek said. “That’s an Oregon worth fighting for, and today is a new beginning.”

“Our state’s response must meet the urgency of the humanitarian crisis we are facing,” she added.

Oregon has struggled for years to address a housing shortage and interwoven homelessness, addiction and mental health crises. Its homeless population has increased by more than 22% since 2020, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It also has the highest drug addiction rate of any state and ranks last in access to mental health treatment, according to federal data from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Kotek also pledged to unite Oregonians after a bitterly fought gubernatorial race — the tightest in a decade — in which Republicans sought to break the Democrats’ dominance of the state. She said she plans to visit every county in Oregon during her first year in office.

“Governing is about serving Oregonians — all Oregonians,” she said, adding that her “personal promise” will be to “strengthen connections across the state.”

In a letter to Kotek, Oregon’s House Republican caucus congratulated her and said it hoped the governor’s office and the Legislature “can co-exist for the benefit of all Oregonians.”

“As exemplified by a trying campaign for both the Executive and Legislative branches, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans provides no benefit to the constituents that elected us,” the letter said.

Kotek said her first executive order will set a housing construction target of 36,000 new homes per year, describing the figure as an 80% increase over recent construction trends.

Her proposed $130 million emergency investment will aim to help unsheltered people move off the streets within a year. Kotek asked lawmakers to act with urgency and said she hopes to build on the investment with a larger, more comprehensive housing and homelessness package during the legislative session.

The measures come on the heels of a significant spending package passed by Oregon lawmakers last year that included $400 million to address homelessness and housing.

Kotek is replacing term-limited Democrat Kate Brown, whose strict coronavirus pandemic measures made her a polarizing figure. The two worked together for years as respective speaker and governor, and they have similar profiles as progressives and open members of the LGBTQ community. But Kotek sought to distance herself from Brown — and her low approval ratings — toward the end of the gubernatorial campaign, casting her predecessor as ineffective on homelessness.

Kotek won Oregon’s three-way race for governor in November after fending off a stiff challenge from a fellow former state representative, Republican Christine Drazan, defeating her by less than four percentage points.

Kotek was a state representative from 2006 until 2022, when she resigned to run for governor. During her time in the Legislature, she became the longest-serving speaker in Oregon history after nine years in the role and cemented her status as a key player in state politics, earning a reputation for cutting deals and muscling bills through the state House.

As speaker, Kotek spearheaded and passed liberal agendas made possible by Democratic supermajorities, including the nation’s first statewide rent control law. She also helped push through gun storage laws, criminal justice reform and paid family leave, among other measures.

Lawmakers also were sworn in on Monday. Democrats still control both chambers of the Legislature, but they lost their three-fifths supermajority in November’s election.

Kotek joins Maura Healey of Massachusetts as the first openly lesbian elected governors in the U.S.


Claire Rush is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Claire on Twitter.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Paul Njoroge, right, points to photos of his wife and three children that were killed in the 2019 c...
Associated Press

Boeing pleads not guilty in case over deadly Max crashes

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Boeing pleaded not guilty Thursday to a charge that it misled regulators who approved its 737 Max, the plane that was involved in two crashes that killed 346 people. Family members of passengers who died gave emotional testimony, calling for criminal prosecution of top Boeing officials. The families are trying […]
20 hours ago
abortion Capital gains tax Olympia meeting legislature abortion...
Associated Press

Washington lawmakers hear testimony on 7 abortion bills

Abortion rights proposals have been front and center in Olympia, Washington, this week as state lawmakers heard hours of public testimony on seven proposals that would reinforce abortion access.
20 hours ago
FILE - The sun dial near the Legislative Building is shown under cloudy skies, March 10, 2022, at t...
Gene Johnson, Associated Press

Justices weigh effort to balance Washington state’s tax code

SEATTLE (AP) — An effort to balance what is considered the nation’s most regressive state tax code came before the Washington Supreme Court on Thursday, with justices hearing arguments about whether they should overturn a prohibition on income taxes that dates to the 1930s. Washington is one of nine states without an income tax, and […]
20 hours ago
Passengers coming from China arrive at the Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, o...
Associated Press

South Korea extends restrictions on travelers from China

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea says it will continue to restrict the entry of short-term travelers from China through the end of February over concerns that the spread of COVID-19 in that country may worsen following the Lunar New Year’s holidays. South Korea in early January stopped issuing most short-term visas at its […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Man appears in federal court to face Capitol riot charges

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A mid-Michigan man says he’s innocent of the charges brought against him in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot in Washington. Isaac Thomas of Genesee County appeared in U.S. District Court in Flint on Thursday, WJRT-TV reported. “I was being told I was being charged with one count of […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

1 year, 1 day in prison for lawyer in police car firebombing

NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer who purchased gasoline that another lawyer used in firebombing an unoccupied New York City police car during protests over George Floyd’s death in 2020 was sentenced Thursday to a year and a day in prison. Colinford Mattis, appearing in federal court, was also ordered to pay just over $30,000 […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Oregon’s new governor sworn in, declares homeless emergency