Senator Chris Telfer: Ways to Reduce State Spending

Senator Chris Telfer Proposes Ways to Reduce State Spending
By Oregon State Senator Chris Telfer,

Salem, OR – Last week state officials revised their revenue projections and they are down, again. Since the close of the 2009 Legislative Session revenue projections have fallen by more than $1.2 billion. Senator Chris Telfer (R-Bend) is proposing several ways that lawmakers can reduce state spending and balance the budget.“As legislators it is our job to balance the state budget,” said Telfer. “Letting the Governor cut across-the-board is irresponsible.” As he did in June, the Governor is ordering an 8 percent cut to every program regardless of its value to Oregonians. Telfer is asking lawmakers to meet in Salem to discuss a list of targeted budget reductions that will preserve the most vital state programs. “From this point forward our budget must be focused on creating private sector jobs,” said Telfer. “Without them we will not get Oregon’s budget back on track. Washington D.C. cannot print money fast enough to bail us out. We must step up and fix this problem here. Most of the items on the list below require lawmakers to meet. They cannot be enacted by the Governor or the Legislative Emergency Board alone.

Proposals include:
Transform Government

– The Department of Human Services continues to lead the way in transforming the way services are delivered. Of the more than 100 recommendations for improvement 31 have been implemented saving more than $80 million. The department should be encouraged to keep moving with implementation of the remaining ideas and other state agencies must follow their lead.

– Review all federal funds to see if Oregon’s required match is worth spending. The strings attached to federal funds may be greater than the benefit of spending Oregon tax dollars.

Reduce the cost of Government

– Examine all new spending in the 2009-11 budget. Any reductions should start there. We have requested the information on this spending but based on the way the state drafts a budget we have been told the information will take weeks to put together.

– Remove all General Fund money from the Department of Land Conservation and Development. Any functions the department can no longer afford can be handled at the local level by those with a vested interest in the economic health of the area. This would save about $7 million for the remainder of the 2009-11 biennium.

– With three of four General Fund dollars going to employee salaries and benefits (according to the Governor’s Reset Report) we cannot balance the general fund budget without shared sacrifice. Options for reductions in employee costs include:

– Approximately 3,000 new positions have been created in state government since 2007 (excludes higher education). By eliminating those positions the state could save $160 million in the current biennium. If public employee union leaders are not willing to open contracts to deal with health insurance and/or PERS the state will have no choice but to reduce the number of state employees. Where possible, any of these reductions should be focused on positions that do not provide a direct service to Oregonians.

– Ask employees to pay for just half of the 6% of salary the state currently pays to their PERS accounts. For the remainder of the current biennium this would save approximately $53 million. This change was recommended by the Governor’s Reset Cabinet.

– Halt the practice of granting salary rate reclassifications to state employees which are really just a backdoor way to avoid the pay freeze. (A list of reclassifications this biennium has been requested).

– Ask state employees to pay for part of their health insurance. If state employees paid what the average teacher does ($187 per month) that state could save over $71 million for the remainder of this biennium.

– Do not fill any positions currently vacant without the approval of the Governor.

– Suspend any Business Energy Tax Credits tax credits not yet approved. This could save approximately $80 million.