“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”…so begins A Tale of Two Cities, the 1859 novel by Charles Dickens. It is a fitting quote for describing the budget conundrum facing the Oregon State Legislature in the spring of 2017.
Oregon’s economy has recovered from the Great Recession of 2009-2010 and has demonstrated strong, sustained economic and revenue growth. The State of Oregon’s general fund budget will have an additional $1.3 billion in tax and lottery revenue in the 2017-2019 biennium. The state’s unemployment rate has fallen to historic lows; people are back at work and paying income taxes. Housing and commercial construction have rebounded, new construction is apparent throughout much of the state, leading to significant increases in property tax revenue. Indeed, in so many ways it is the best of times.
The Co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means committee, the principal budget writing committee of the legislature (the ODE estimates of State School Fund are based on this proposal), have proposed a budget which, by their own estimate, is $1.6 billion short of providing the level of state services we currently enjoy. For example they have acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of low income Oregonian’s could lose health care coverage, hundreds of Oregon K-12 teachers could lose their jobs leaving behind even larger class sizes, the school year may be shortened to reduce school budgets and services to senior citizens may be slashed. Those are all vivid reminders of the worst of times most of us have seen in our lifetimes, i.e. the Great Recession.
The current proposal of the Co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee of the Oregon Legislature is $7.8 billion. For Centennial, that funding level would mean we would have to reduce this budget by approximately $2.2 million. In other words, that would be a 3.3 percent budget reduction. Translated into services, it is almost the cost of operating an entire elementary school for the school year; or it is equivalent to 27 classroom teachers; or it is the cost of about 10 days of school. Absolutely none of those, or any combination of those service reductions are acceptable. All of them are very damaging to the education of our children.
This budget message must make one point clearly and emphatically. The revenue estimates in our general fund budget are based on a final appropriation by the Oregon Legislature for the State School Support Fund (SSF) of at least $8.1 billion. Anything less will mean unacceptable reductions that will impact every child we serve in Centennial.
To read the full Budget Message, click here 2017-2018 Budget Message Final April 19 2017