Cutting costs, evaluating state services
Oregon received the first quarterly revenue forecast for the new state budget in late August. The forecast, down about $200 million, was not a complete surprise.
Despite job growth in the private sector and after a very strong start to 2011, there have been a number of factors dragging down the growth we were beginning to see. While a forecast down $200 million isn't great news, it isn't unmanageable and is certainly not catastrophic.
What's evident from this recent forecast is that Oregon is not immune to the recent volatility on Wall Street and the gridlock in Washington, D.C. While I feel very strongly that the Legislature has done a good job managing our economic crisis given its limited resources, the national and international markets impact the economic realities for both Oregon families and the state's fiscal bottom line.
Too many Oregon families continue to struggle in this economy. That's why I've continued to focus on sending the most dollars possible to our classrooms, protecting our most vulnerable, and on championing initiatives that create jobs for hardworking families.
As the Senate's chief budget writer, I've fought to secure the services that Oregonians depend on, while sponsoring legislation that asks more of our state agencies and streamlines services to increase efficiency.
During the session completed in June, the Legislature did not shy away from transformational change. Governor Kitzhaber has made repeated references to the need to revisit our basic assumptions on how state services are provided during tough times. I wholeheartedly agree with this premise. That's why I supported legislation that will fundamentally shift the way we manage health care for needy Oregonians, create a new, more coordinated approach to education at all levels - from pre-kindergarten to higher education - and revamp the way we award tax incentives to attract business and innovation in Oregon.
These are just a few examples of the work we're doing in Salem to cut costs while reevaluating the whole spectrum of state services that you and I rely on.
We have yet to see the full impact of savings from our recent work, but I'm confident that we're moving in the right direction. While the most recent revenue outlook is not positive, it is important not to panic. This is only the first forecast of this new biennium. We will receive a second forecast in November and a third during our 2012 February session. These forecasts will help us understand the state's economic trends and the job ahead of us in February.
State economists will release the next revenue forecast before Thanksgiving, and I hope it will show some additional signs of recovery for Oregon families.
While the months between sessions are traditionally 'off' months for the Legislature, I'll be in Salem and out meeting with constituents in district for much of the time between now and next February.
If I can ever be of service, please don't hesitate to contact my office at 503-986-1719. My staff and I are committed to working for the constituents of Senate District 19 and are especially interested in hearing your ideas about how to make government operate better for the people of Oregon. Please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) is from Oregon Senate District 19