Budget Cuts, N. G. Redeployments and Statewide Issues Survey
By State Representative Dennis Richardson,
The Ways & Means Co-Chairs’ $862.5 million rebalance plan for Oregon’s 2007-09 Budget has been approved by the committee. This is the Legislature’s response to the $855 million revenue shortfall announced in the recently released March 2009 Revenue Forecast. Assuming Oregon’s declining revenue trend continues, the ’07-09 Budget shortfall will grow to more than $1 Billion by the May Revenue Forecast and further budgetary backfilling will be required before the June 30th ending date for the current biennium.
How cutting $862.5 million in the final four months of a biennium affects citizens. Last week’s newsletter (Oregon Budget Cuts & Consequences), showed how (1.) the proposed cuts would dramatically affect local city and county programs and (2.) would breach the Legislature’s fiduciary duty as Trustee over funds dedicated to Oregon’s most needy mentally ill and developmentally disabled citizens. I am happy to report the final versions of Senate Bill 581-A and Senate Bill 5552A reconsider these issues and substantially lessen the impact on local programs affecting needy senior citizens and hundreds of developmentally disabled Oregonians.
The Co-Chairs of the Joint Senate and House Ways & Means Committee, Senator Margaret Carter (D-Portland) and Representative Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) have worked closely with Legislative Fiscal Office economists and analysts in crafting the first set of cuts. I have been impressed with how they have sought and received input from legislators from both parties and have done their best to craft a solution to the shortfall in revenues for the current biennium. Their work is just beginning. For those wanting to see the numbers, I have linked the final list of Other Fund Balances being taken, and Agency Cuts required to backfill the substantial 2007-09 revenue shortfall.
National Guard Redeployment Issue Update. Should the Federal Government continue to redeploy the Oregon National Guard to Iraq or Afghanistan? That is the survey question I asked in the February 13, 2009 newsletter. Two weeks have passed since I conducted the survey and it is time to come back and report.
I had not given the issue of repeated redeployments of the Oregon National Guard any thought until late one night a few weeks ago. I was leaving the Capitol when I stopped and talked to an individual camping out on the Capitol’s steps. I asked why he was there and he told me he was part of a vigil to bring attention to the wrongness of repeated deployments of Oregon National Guard troops to fight foreign wars. He then gave me a flyer explaining his group’s position. In the days that followed, I read the flyer, reread relevant portions of the U.S. Constitution, and researched the writings of our Founding Fathers on the issues of state militias. I concluded that this small group of passionate protesters was right and that I should join them and speak out on this matter. This is a serious issue with real life consequences, so I asked for my readers’ opinions, in case I was off base, misinformed, and needed to be educated. Your response was dramatic. Six hundred and fifty of you responded to this one-question National Guard Redeployment Survey — 87% oppose continual redeployments to fight on-going foreign conflicts and 13% support the current N. G. redeployment strategy. Three hundred thirty-six wrote comments. You can read them yourself by clicking on the above link. They are broad-based, and span the spectrum of political ideologies. From a Vietnam Vet’s “Hell No!” to a National Guardsman’s well-reasoned argument for the on-going need for a strong National Guard involvement in America’s wars.
The National Guardsman’s position was that using National Guard troops to fight America’s wars ensures families, friends and neighbors are personally impacted by every deployment. The idea is that such grass-root involvement will motivate American citizens to quickly engage in the debate over whether such deployments are worthwhile or not. If the American public does not support a military action, in theory, public pressure quickly will be placed on elected Congressional delegations, who have the power to pass resolutions, cut off funding and end the engagement.
One comment from Brigadier General Mike Caldwell (Deputy Director, Oregon Military Dept.), led to conversations, emails and a face-to-face meeting. General Caldwell provided me important historical perspective on the evolution and importance of the role of the National Guard in American military affairs. The General made a good point when he reminded me that it is the Federal government that pays for N.G. salaries, equipment and training, and Congress gives the President power to call the Guard into federal service, whenever Congress resolves to do so. (My dad used to say, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”) If you would like to read General Caldwell’s comments on Nation Guard issues, click here. I appreciate these well-considered comments, but I believe the constitutional intent for the state militia was two-fold: First, to have an armed citizenry that would serve as a constant safeguard against a potential power grab by coup or otherwise; and second, to have an organized militia under the command of each state’s Governor and subject to the President as Commander in Chief in times of national emergency.
I am a veteran and I consider myself a patriot, and my sworn allegiance is to uphold the Constitution. I believe it is time to reinstate the constitutional balance of power between the Executive Branch of the federal government and the states. In my opinion, it is time for Oregon to join some 20 other states in reasserting state sovereignty.
Whether in matters of the National Guard, federal control of public lands and resources within state boundaries, or federal mandates for states to provide an expensive and unsecured national identification card (Real ID.), it is time for Oregon to reassert the rights reserved by the states under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Representative Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley) and I have a bill, and we are inviting Oregon’s Democrat and Republican legislators to sign on and join us in reasserting Oregon’s sovereignty.
Statewide Issues Survey. Perhaps you have an opinion on statewide issues. Your voice can be heard by Oregon’s 60 Representatives and 30 Senators, if you will spend a few minutes and complete my Statewide Survey. You can answer one or all of the questions on issues important to the future of Oregon, and it will only take a few minutes to complete. I will disseminate the results throughout the Capitol, so please give your legislators the benefit of your opinions by completing this important Statewide Survey. Click Here.