Editorial: Measure 66-67 tax-budget battle truths

Below a great Measure 66 and Measure 67 opinion
The Albany Democrat Herald Editorial

In the run-up to the Jan. 26, 2010, tax election [Measure 66 -Measure 67], you will hear more than once that the 2009 legislature already cut the budget by $2 billion and defeating the measures would result in further cuts. Further cuts would depend on what the legislature actually does, but what about the slashing the legislature has already done? It turns out that the cuts were made not from actual spending of the previous budget period, but from proposed higher spending this period.

The governor and the legislature started the budget deliberations with what they call an “essential budget level.” For the general fund, which includes education, human services, public safety and the courts, natural resources, administration and other programs including the legislature itself, this “essential” but theoretical level was pegged at $16.2 billion for the 2009-11 budget period.

The “essential” level was up about $2 billion from the approved budget for 2007-09, and when it was cut about $2 billion, that left the biennial budget now in effect at about $14.2 billion, almost the same as the nearly $14.4 billion budget in effect for 2007-09, or down about 1 percent.

(Don’t ask how the current budget compares to actual spending last biennium. Those numbers won’t be available for months.)

The state budgeting system, covering two years at a time as it does, results in higher than expected increases from one budget to the next as a matter of course. Every time the legislature adds a program “” authorizes more troopers, say “” toward the end of a biennium, continuing that level of expense for the entire ensuing two years necessarily raises budget levels more than you would routinely expect.

Still, this hasn’t exactly been a routine year for lots of Oregon taxpayers. These are the Oregonians who, dependent on the level of the economy, are living on frozen or reduced pay, if they’re still able to earn a living at all.

On their behalf, it is worth pointing out that in the case of state budgeting, the much-quoted cut of $2 billion actually left the budget almost unchanged from the last biennium to this. (hh)