11 Jun 2010, 12:32pm
Tramps and Thieves
by admin

No Special Session for Oregon Legislature

“We gave schools an additional 200 million dollars in February based on the passage of the tax measures and we are now asking them to give it all back plus some.”


by Senator Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, District 1

I was one of four Senators along with one House member who requested a vote on the Legislature calling itself into a special session to deal with the budget shortfall. We did this because we consider the Governor’s plan to do 9% across the board cuts unacceptable and poor management. We also recognize the fact that the earlier in the biennium the reductions are made the less painful they will be as they will not have to be as deep. Unfortunately no Democrats joined us in our request and as they have the majority in both Houses we did not get the required majority of votes.

What we have heard from the Senate President and the Speaker of the House is it is much too soon to consider such a move. I wonder when the right time will be. The reality is they do not want to deal with this issue heading into the election season. By allowing the Governor, who is not running for re-election, to make the cuts, they feel they can be blameless in what happens. I would submit the deliberate lack of action by Leadership puts the blame squarely on them. I think they are also hoping for another federal bailout, which is how they were able to increase government during this recession in the first place.

We are already starting to hear about proposals to release prisoners early, cut back on state police, cut back on assistance to seniors, cutting school days, laying off teachers and the list will continue to grow. What is interesting is the first place government looks to make cuts is in essential services when there are so many other viable options. I think one of the reasons we are not meeting in Special Session is they don’t want to give us the opportunity to put these other options on the table.

I will use as an example the cut to the K-12 system. Clearly there are some real problems with their funding based on two specific fixed costs that are beyond their control. The first is their costs for the state retirement system (PERS) which the Legislature and the last two Governors have failed to address in any meaningful way and the second is the new state health insurance program (OEBB) which the Legislature forced most school districts into and is costing most of them more money than the plans they had before. Both of these are fixable problems, but the fixes run contrary to the wishes of the teachers union and the other public employee unions. As these groups are some of the primary sources of campaign funds for Democrat candidates neither the Democrat majority or the Democrat Governor will touch them. These are both ongoing issues and the impact on local school funding will continue to get worse over time until they are fixed.

I mention the two issues in the last paragraph to point out the fact some of the costs facing local schools are not avoidable and not entirely of their own making. Schools are facing the same 9% cut all other programs are facing and I maintain we can do better. We could hold schools, police and other essential services intact, but the only way to do it is for the Legislature to take action. The Senate President said they would monitor the proposed cuts, but those are just words designed to make us think he cares. If they really cared they would have supported the only move that would have allowed us to really be involved.

There are many actions we could take to bring the budget back in balance. We could eliminate some of the 2,300 plus government jobs we created during the 2009 Session. We could take from all agencies the money they currently have for other positions that have remained unfilled. We could stop the very expensive efforts we are making to try and sign more people up for government programs. We could pass legislation to require state employees to pay for a portion of their health care premiums rather than have the tax payers foot the whole bill. These are just a few of a very long list of real savings it would take Legislative action to deal with.

Instead what will happen is the 9% cuts, but don’t be fooled into thinking there will be anything even or “across the board” about the way they will be handled. Experience tells me the cuts will all happen at the local and service level. No bureaucrat in Salem will lose their job; in fact many will continue to get pay increases. We should be doing what is right for the people of Oregon; instead we are caving to a political agenda. This is mindless management, and we deserve better.

By the way, wasn’t the passage of the tax increases supposed to stop this sort of thing? I predicted the increases would have just the opposite effect and that prediction has proven to be true. We gave schools an additional 200 million dollars in February based on the passage of the tax measures and we are now asking them to give it all back plus some. The school superintendents I have talked to all hoped the Legislature would be meeting to deal with the budget and I told them I was doing what I could to make it happen. But it turns out school districts do not contribute to political campaigns, so they are out of luck.

I am very upset by the lack of management and leadership we are seeing from the majority party. This is not a time for politics; this is a time for action.

Note: see also

Proposed Allotment Reductions Available

BY RACHEL CHEESEMAN, Oregon Politico, June 10, 2010 [here]

SALEM – The allotment reduction strategies of Oregon’s state agencies were made available on the Department of Administrative Services website Wednesday.

The Department of Corrections reduced its budget by $52 million and will close three correctional facilities – the Mill Creek Correctional Facility and the Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem and the Powder River Correctional Facility in Baker City. In addition to layoffs, the cuts will result in the release of 966 minimum-custody inmates and the elimination of “a substantial component of the Alternative Incarceration Program.”

Nathan Allen, the Planning and Budget Administrator for the Department of Corrections, said the inmates to be released would pose very little to no risk to public safety. … [more]



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