State Representative Kim Thatcher,
This has been a busy summer for state agencies — trying to figure out how to cut 9% from their budgets under orders from the Governor to fill a nearly $600 million hole in the current state budget. These agencies are also concerned about a nearly $3 billion shortfall projected for the next budget cycle. Something’s got to give.
As you may recall in my last newsletter we talked about the Governor’s across-the-board reductions to state programs. Legislative leaders refused to call a special session to avoid cuts in critical programs so now we’re left with political posturing. Here’s just the first of many examples to come. The Department of Human Services sent out letters to thousands of seniors and people with disabilities, who rely on caregivers for help with everything from grocery shopping to bathing, telling them they will no longer get services. Many, instead would have to go into more expensive state-subsidized facilities. Then the Legislative Leadership calls the Emergency Board into session to restore some of these cuts for a few months – at least until, you guessed it, after the November election is over. I have to wonder if this E-Board action is more about publicity than a genuine desire to help some of our most vulnerable citizens. If the leadership was truly interested in that, they would hold a Special Session and put all the cards on the table. That way we can target cuts to non-essential programs and provide funding to seniors for the long term so they once again don’t have to feel like political pawns worried about what’s going to happen when the funding is all gone next year.
I predict this process of restoring budget cuts for political gain will repeat in the fall. This time it will be funding for K-12, just in time for back to school media coverage and again, right before the November election. I remain less and less hopeful that the leadership will do the right thing and hold a special session. These off-and-on budget cuts will come to a crashing halt next year when legislators are faced with what to do about that multi-billion dollar budget shortage.
I remain committed to prioritizing services based on core functions. It’s no secret, the state budget has gone up by double digits in recent years. Lawmakers have been spending like there’s no tomorrow. Well, guess what? Tomorrow is here and we’ve run out of money. It’s time for leadership at the Capitol to step up and do the right thing by allowing the Oregon Legislature as a whole to make the tough choices. We don’t need these piece meal budget changes and we certainly don’t need politicians pressuring us for another tax hike on Oregon families who are already overtaxed.