Looking at budget games the Legislature plays

By Dan Lucas,
Researcher and House candidate,

*** Download 9-page companion document with charts, raw budget numbers. ***

In the wake of Governor Kulongoski’s May 25th budget cut announcement, school districts across Oregon are again facing more budget cuts – cuts they shouldn’t have to be making. Remember in early 2009, when we were all hearing that as a result of the economic downturn the Legislature was facing huge budget cuts, and our public schools were on the chopping block? That hit very close to home for us because our daughter was a second year public school teacher and she was very worried that she would be getting a pink slip. Later in the year, Oregonians were told that if they didn’t vote YES on Measures 66 and 67, they’d be hurting our schools. Voters were told that the budget shortfall could only be overcome by raising taxes on businesses and “the rich.”

What a surprise to find out, then, that the 2009 Legislature chose to cut $150 million from K-12 schools and to give that money to the Department of Human Services (DHS), even before Measures 66 and 67. It’s Oregon’s dirty little budget secret. The Legislature cut school funding and they didn’t need to. They’ll tell you they needed to increase the DHS budget to handle more demand for unemployment and food stamps due to the economic downturn. That sounds plausible, but it’s not true. Unemployment is paid by the Employment Department and not DHS, and the Employment Department’s budget was actually cut. Further, the money for the food stamps is actually from the Federal government; it’s only the administration of the food stamps that’s paid for with state dollars.

Budget documents from the state’s Legislative Fiscal Office reveal that when faced with $220 million in budget declines, the Legislature made the decision to cut the budgets of 35 state agencies & boards by $670 million (including the State K-12 School Fund and the Employment Department), and to increase the budgets of 20 other state agencies & boards by $450 million (including DHS, OPB and the State Library). The DHS budget alone grew by $330 million.

For DHS, the budget was increased for every one of their six divisions, and only one of those divisions processes food stamps. DHS added 1,300 new full-time jobs – the same number of jobs that are in the entire Department of Oregon State Police! (The total number of jobs in the State Police includes troopers, dispatchers, investigators, forensic & medical examiners, the Fish & Wildlife division, the State Fire Marshal’s office, etc.)

An alternative (the Back To Basics budget) was proposed and it had no cuts to K-12 school funding, but it was rejected by the Democratic supermajority.

Given that the Democratic supermajority chose to cut $150 million from K-12 schools, it’s small wonder that even with the passage of Measures 66 and 67, Oregon school districts are still having to make painful cuts. The Governor’s recent proposed budget cuts will wipe out an additional $200 million of contingency funding that was going to go to K-12 schools. This will raise the amount cut from the K-12 State School Fund from $150 to $350 million – still easily covered by the $450 million that the Legislature grew 20 other state agencies and boards with.

Oregon’s dirty little budget secret is hurting our schools, hurting teachers and hurting our children’s futures.

*** Download 9-page companion document with charts, raw budget numbers. ***

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to LinkedIn Post to Reddit

Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 9 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Britt Storkson

    Dan, you’re illustrating exactly why it is almost impossible to make budget cuts. With government where performance is a non-issue when one group gets their budget cut they cry “foul” (and a lot of other things we can’t print here). Then the “cut” group adopts the attitude that ‘if we’re not going to get what we want you’re [the other groups not getting cut] not going to either’.
    Also simply throwing money at this or that without any standards or measures doesn’t accomplish anything. But then again many educators are not interested in accomplishing anything with regard to education anyway. They just want the money.

  • Insider

    Dan: Your article is a flat-out lie.

    The Legislature did cut the state General Fund allocation for K-12 schools last year — but it also cut the GF allocation FOR EVERY SINGLE STATE AGENCY. Not one agency was spared cuts.

    There were some increases in temporary Federal Funds — mostly to agencies like DHS dealing with heavy caseloads during this recession. But not a single state agency received an increase in General Funds. Not one. In fact, the Legislature cut overall GF-funded services by almost $2 billion last year, and K-12 schools took LESS of a percentage cut than most agencies. Not more of a cut as your article implies, but LESS. The Legislature actually protected K-12 schools, even over-riding the Governor’s veto to do so.

    Please confirm your facts before you print bold-faced lies.

    • Dan Lucas

      Insider, I very much support your call to confirm facts – I think we all need to be doing that in all our public discourse – how can we be making the best decisions for Oregon when we don’t have the facts? I actually did provide the sources and summary of my detailed research; they just take a little longer to get posted because it’s not just text to post on a blog. Look for them on Oregon Catalyst sometime today.

  • Anonymous

    Insider, YOU are lying. Budgets were INCREASED for DHS and most other agencies. What was cut was not the amount from the previous biennium. No, what was “cut” was the amount of increase each agency requested. Here is how it works (made up simple numbers for simplicity):

    2007-2009: DHS budget is $10 billion

    in 2009, DHS requests a new budget of $15 billion

    the Governor turns around and says DHS should have $14 billion – a “cut”

    the Legislature then says DHS can only have $13 billion – another “cut”

    so the final budget for DHS is $13 billion, which everyone says is a $2 billion cut – but it reality is $3 billion more than the previous budget.

    This is the norm for government.

    We can slash DHS and Education spending both by a few billion dollars, and be right back to where we were a few years ago – not a “cut” but a return to an earlier baseline.

  • Psychobob

    Insider, please get YOUR facts straight before you call someone a liar. A smaller INCREASE in the government’s budget IS NOT a “cut” – thus illustrating the propaganda the government uses to justify exploding spending. Programs and services continue to expand, thus necessitating an ever larger increase just to “maintain current levels.” Even in the face of a coming budgetary crisis, the state government is on a hiring binge, thus guaranteeing an even worse “budget crisis” during the next biennial legislature.
    Although it is notoriously difficult to track exact figures for the Oregon budget, what actually appears to have happened was that the state’s 2009-2011 “GF” budget (which very conveniently hides the much, much larger All Funds budget) increased 12% over the 2007-2009 budget (which was 22% more than the 2005-2007 budget). That $2 billion “cut”? That was the difference between the legislature’s and the governor’s budgets, which were both increases over the previous budget.

  • Bob Clark

    In my ideal world, Milwaukee light rail project would be deferred (if not altogether canceled) until the Oregon economy is once again booming, saving an immediate $100 million and another $150 in the intermediate period. Other such expenditures such as renewable energy tax credits would also be cut given the surplus nature of electric energy markets for the indefinite future. These savings would help eliminate the current budget deficit; but longer term, elimination of such progressive agenda could feed savings to provide tax credits for educating and training children and adults in new job skills providing a richer, more diverse set of education options than the current monolithic, bureaucratic public school system.

    But this is Oregon and not the new New Jersey. So, one is left to only dream for more sanity in Oregon governance.

    • valley p

      “In my ideal world, Milwaukee light rail project would be deferred”

      Would we give the federal funds back? And then what, reprogram local gas tax funds to schools? Money comes from different taxes Bob, some of them dedicated. It can’t just be reprogrammed for other uses.

  • Pingback: prediksi bola hari ini()

  • Pingback: browse around here()

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Catalyst through daily email updates:

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)