Core Functions Bill Gets Legislative Hearing

Core Functions Bill Gets Legislative Hearing
State Representative Kim Thatcher

(Salem) “We are going to have to reckon with reality and not continue business as usual. In other words, we need to focus our spending on the priorities,” explained State Representative Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer, Newberg, St. Paul) today in front of the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Government Accountability during a hearing at the State Capitol. Thatcher and several others gave the Committee several reasons to support House Bill 3614 which would set up a special taskforce to develop the Core Functions of State Government. “This is not about ideology but common sense and re-thinking how we budget,” said Thatcher.

“Government cannot and should not do everything. But we haven’t done a very good job of instructing our state legislature and state agencies exactly what our priorities are,” said Steve Buckstein, Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute. “House Bill 3614 is a first step toward setting real priorities.”

The legislation is modeled after a successful program in Washington State created by former Governor Gary Locke. Thatcher told the Committee this afternoon, Washington was able to close a large gap in their state budget using a system of priorities of government. “They decided to approach their budget process in an innovative way and were able to work through their budget and not raise taxes while protecting government services.”

Several citizens testified in favor of HB 3614 including Mark Higgins of Newberg. He compared government spending to the way a family prioritizes its budget. “In our family we have to put our needs over our wants. I believe every responsible family does that.”

Earlier this week the revenue forecast was released which shows the state is more than $350 million short of what is needed to balance the budget. Thatcher noted, “this week’s revenue forecast is a good reminder of why we need to start prioritizing our spending in a different way, focusing on outcomes of programs rather than spending as we have been.”

State Representative Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver), a co-sponsor of HB 3614 and former member of the legislature’s budget committee, said “this bill is the right thing to do especially given the tremendous budget challenges facing our state in the next year or so.”