We find little solace that Oregon legislative leaders claim to be taking a reasoned - not reactionary - approach to contend with state revenue projections that will fall an estimated $577 million short of budget.
Pragmatism? Hooey. What's really needed now is immediate leadership and prioritized actions that will carry Oregon in a different direction than it has been headed: far too much spending and far too little revenue.
Yes, Gov. Ted Kulongoski ordered state agencies on Tuesday to cut spending across the board by 4.6 percent overall - the annual equivalent of a 9 percent reduction, given that there are only about 12 months left in the state's two-year budget cycle. That means K-12 education will lose approximately $258 million statewide, resulting in the estimated loss of 4,000 K-12 teaching and staff positions. Human services budgets will fall by $158 million, and the Oregon Department of Corrections will cut $51 million.
These are not just numbers. They foretell broad public impacts in classrooms, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons.
Yet, legislative leaders mistakenly hold out hope for a federal bailout that cannot be afforded by Washington, D.C. They also count on the public to maintain its patience as the economy slowly improves.
Without the governor calling the Legislature into special session - which he should - and without the Legislature taking hold of its unsteady spending ways, Oregon's students, schools and most needy citizens will continue time and again to suffer from a lack of strategic long-term leadership and responsible long-term budgeting.