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Budget Cuts in Oregon State Legislature Now- Put in Your 2 Cents

email from Oregon Legislature Speaker of the House, Representative Dave Hunt:

CAPITOL REPORT: June 2, 2010

Last week the state economist issued a new quarterly revenue projection of $577 million less for 2009-11 than he projected in February. Though this new budget shortfall presents a clear and difficult challenge, it is not debilitating and Oregon must remain on the road to economic recovery. Read below about our action plan for addressing these new budget shortfalls.

The Governor has announced his plans to cut $577 million equally across all education, health care, and public safety services. Do you think the Legislature should have a Special Session? If so, where should we cut more deeply? Where should we mitigate for the damage of the across-the-board cuts? How much should we leave in savings to guard against future quarterly forecasts?

Now is your opportunity to weigh in on the steps the Legislature should take the solve the short-term budget shortfall while addressing long-term budget and policy goals. I need to hear your concerns now in order to effectively represent you in the Legislature.

If you would like to share your thoughts with me in person, then join me at my Town Hall Meeting on Jobs, Economic Recovery & the State Budget next Wednesday, June 9th at 6:30pm at The Springs at Clackamas Woods! [ed note: this is mainly for folks in his district but nothing says others can't go].
Solving Oregon's Budget Challenges
Like almost every state, Oregon has seen several revenue projection declines during the past two years. Unlike many states, we have stayed focused on job creation, maintained a balanced budget, and protected core services through a thoughtful approach to the wild downswings forced on us by this global economic recession.

During the 2009 Legislative Session, we cut $2 billion in state-funded services. We also left more resources in our state savings account to guard against future revenue forecasts than any Oregon Legislature has ever left in savings. But because of the depth of this global recession, even our conservative budgeting and record savings were not enough.

The passage of Measures 66 and 67 by the Legislature last year (and affirmed by voters in January) added $727 million to our state's budget and prevented even deeper cuts. Without those resources, the current budget hole would be more than $1.3 billion, requiring far more drastic cuts than Oregon faces now.
Amidst the bad news last week about declining
tax revenues in 2009 was the good economic news about the first four months of 2010:

* Employment is up. Oregon added 3,900 jobs in April; the biggest gain in 30 months.
* Our employment rate (while still too high) has improved by a full percentage point during the past year.
* Corporate profits are up.
* Personal tax withholding revenues are up.
Even Lottery revenues are up.

With positive economic news for 2010, now is not the time to panic. We are already working hard to determine the resources we have, exactly what the Governor's across-the-board budget cuts will look like, and how we can mitigate the worst of those cuts to project critical services.

Meanwhile, some legislators are attempting to bring us into a special session immediately. We don't know all the facts yet, and it's important that we have all the facts before we can develop a plan to get us through the end of this biennium. Their plan would have us in special session before June 14, well before we know whether the federal government plans to send additional aid to the states and even well before we can craft a plan that can pass and be signed.

Eight years ago, Oregon faced a similar dilemma. We should all learn from the failed policies and mistakes of the then-Republican-controlled Legislature. Back then, they called themselves into special session with no plan and the Legislature went through a series of five chaotic special sessions that cost taxpayers far too much and yield far too little results. In the end, that Legislature approved a crazy borrowing scheme that used 10 years of debt to pay for a few months of operating expenses. It was a clear example of poor fiscal policy, poor planning, and poor management. We will not repeat those mistakes.

So exactly how will we attack this latest crisis?

Here are the first steps we are immediately taking:

* We sent a House Democratic Leadership letter to our Congressional delegation, urging them to approve additional federal funds for education and human services. We'll continue to push for that critical funding to prevent the loss of jobs and services.
* We've contacted school districts across Oregon to determine the specific impacts of the Governor's across-the-board cuts -- and what can be done to lessen those impacts.
* We're implementing more budget cuts to the Legislative Branch and working with the Secretary of State and the Oregon Judicial Department to implement a fair share of cuts in those agencies as well. (The Governor is not legally allowed to cut the Legislature, Secretary of State, or Judicial Department.) Our Legislative Fiscal Office and Emergency Board members will analyze the proposed agency budget cut lists that are due on June 7 and assess what can be done with our $175 million in remaining state reserves to mitigate the worst of these proposed cuts.
* We have scheduled a bipartisan Emergency Board meeting for June 15.

Only when we know what our resources are, when we know what the federal government intends to do, and when there is a specific plan to mitigate budget cuts, can call ourselves into special session and solve the problem.

These are trying times brought on by a global recession. We have already cut Oregon's budget by over $3 billion in the 2007-09 and 2009-11 bienniums. We will do what it takes to keep our state budget in balance and protect core services to the best of our ability. And we will continue to work on the job creation and economic growth strategies that have helped turn our economy around in the first five months of 2010 -- because the greatest long-term solution to our challenges is the creation of more good jobs across Oregon.

What other actions do you think we should take?

Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, June 9th!
Please attend my next Town Hall Meeting on Jobs, Economic Recovery & the State Budget on Wednesday, June 9th at 6:30 pm at The Springs at Clackamas Woods located at 14314 SE Webster Avenue, Milwaukie 97267.

Please bring your questions, concerns, and ideas for addressing the economic, job creation, and budgetary challenges facing Oregon. All of my Town Hall Meetings are free of charge and open to the public. See you there!

Thank you for the honor of representing you in the Oregon House of Representatives.


Dave Hunt
State Representative
Speaker of the House


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