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Q&A: Alan Bates

If elected, what will be your top priority as an Oregon state senator?

My first priority would be to continue to control and reduce health care costs. In the last 10 to 12 years, I’ve worked to put together coordinated care organizations designed to get better outcomes, lower costs and create a healthier population. They started about a year ago and have dramatically reduced costs already. In addition, there’s been a big decrease in the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations and an increase in primary and preventive care.

If we can continue on the track of reducing health care costs, there will be hundreds of millions of dollars available that we can reinvest in K-12 education, community colleges and higher education. The money that’s invested in education will create a well-trained workforce that will build jobs in Oregon.

What would you change about the health care system in Oregon?

First, I would make sure coordinated care organizations stay on track and expand to take in more public employees. The second thing would be to expand dramatically our treatment of mental health and drug- and alcohol-related problems that are a drag on the system, our prison facilities, our society and the ability of people to get jobs. If you can’t pass a drug test, you won’t get a job, and then you’re back on the welfare system.

If Oregon revenues come in 2 percent higher than projected in 2013, what would you like to see happen with the additional revenue or kicker at the end of the fiscal, two-year budget cycle?

I would want to put that money in a rainy-day fund. My expectation is that in the next four to six years, we’ll be hit by another recession, and this time we would like to have funds set aside so we don’t have to cut funding to K-12, higher ed or community programs and senior services. We’ll probably need a rainy-day fund in excess of $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

Oregon’s minimum wage is currently set at $9.10. Do you advocate a higher minimum wage? If so, what do you consider fair pay?

I think you have to pay people a high enough wage so that those working 40-hour weeks are not under the poverty level. Otherwise, they fall back on Medicaid, food stamps and child services. I’m not recommending anything crazy like $15 an hour, but $11 an hour with increases in line with inflation has been shown to actually stimulate the economy without people losing jobs and to help people get off welfare.