On January 19th, the co-chairs of the Joint Ways & Means Committee released their Existing Resources Budget Framework as a precursor to the co-chairs’ recommended budget to be released after the February 22nd Revenue Forecast.
Senator Richard Devlin and Representative Nancy Nathanson cited the $1.8 billion budget shortfall to the current service level going into biennium 2017-19. They acknowledge resources are insufficient and moves Oregon backward on investments in education, health care, and human services.
They noted that the fundamental imbalance was caused by choices made decades ago, including Measures 5 (1990) and 50 (1997) related to property tax limitations, and Measures 11 and 57, which mandated minimum prison sentences. They also cited PERS and passage of three ballot measures this fall that cost an additional $357 million to implement next biennium.
On the other hand, they gave credit to the legislature for cost-saving criminal justice reform, health care transformation, pension adjustments, and the largest financial reserves in state history. The framework leaves those reserves in place in the event of a future economic downturn.
The framework will serve as targets to be used by Ways & Means Subcommittees to balance within current law resources.
As to budget sectors, the framework reduces education $432.6 million from current service level (CSL), $1.166 billion from human services, $80.1 million from public safety, $26.1 from judicial services, $7.4 million from economic development, $9.1 million from natural resources, $29.4 million from transportation, and $400,000.00 from consumer & business services.
The co-chairs list programs and services to consider for reduction, and the potential of additional resources. Of particular interest to counties, here are some examples in the framework.
– Reduce funding for CCOs and the Hospital Transformation Performance Program. Reduce dental and addiction services provided through the Oregon Health Plan. Cut health insurance coverage for 335,000 adults recently added to the Oregon Health Plan. Cut funding for contracts with community mental health programs.
– Related to public safety, close the 50-bed North Coast Youth Correctional facility; reduce the drug enforcement section of the State Police and shifting its Criminal Investigations Division onto marijuana tax funding; cut community corrections funding to counties; and reduce Criminal Fine Account support for basic police and corrections classes at the Department of Public Safety Standards & Training.
– Regarding judicial branch programs, reduce the Criminal Fine Account support for courthouse security; and reduce support to county law libraries and county mediation/conciliation programs.
– In economic development, reduce support for several housing programs and limit the growth of lottery support for county economic development programs (hinting at ignoring the statute dedicating 2.5% of net video lottery proceeds to counties). On the other hand, the framework refers to increasing state support for veterans’ services.
– In natural resources, which accounts for merely about 2% of the state budget, several items are mentioned for consideration. For example, shifting pesticides control and food safety to fees; reduce funding for wolf grant assistance and predator control; reduce funding to coordinate agencies to implement the Integrated Water Resources Strategy and nonpoint source pollution policy development; cut support for rangeland protection associations and sudden oak death treatment; reduce the Department of Land Conservation and Development planning program and Water Resources Department water availability feasibility studies grants and technical services.
– Regarding transportation, reduce public transit subsidies for seniors and the disabled, and support for intercity passenger rail.
– Reduce Regional Solutions staffing of the Governor and staffing in the Corporation, Elections, and Audits Divisions of the Secretary of State.
Contributed by: Gil Riddell, AOC Policy Director