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Session left state budget in good shape

Friends, we're done! The short February Legislative Session has concluded its business within the one-month originally allotted for it. Being in session has allowed us to respond thoughtfully to an unexpected $190 million revenue shortfall announced February 8. Fortunately, House Co-Chair, Representative Nolan and I had worked out two budget alternatives prior to session that we had shared with our colleagues. One was a static forecast and the other anticipated a decline.

Also, as co-chair of the budget process I am proud that during the regular 2007 session we had set aside $200 million for our ending balance. As a result, no reductions to our 2007 legislatively adopted budget were required to balance for the shortfall. Indeed, we were able to make a few targeted allocations to keep ALF and foster homes operating safely; increase the number of child welfare workers and assistants to answer concerns about our children's safety; implement funding for Ballot Measure 49 claims and continue the Big Look of our land use system; ensure 24/7 State Police coverage; provide a few dollars and tax credits to leverage a lot of private dollars to keep hundreds of affordable housing projects intact for vulnerable Oregonians; develop feasibility studies for water storage/conservation projects around the state; ensure proper staffing for our State Hospital and community mental health activities; and prepare for a legislative property crime referral that strengthens sanctions and provides treatment to reduce recidivism. All for under $36 million!

At the same time we still have $35 million left in our ending balance; $30 million in our general purpose energy fund; $30-plus million in a Human Service contingency fund for possible increased caseloads if the economy stays weak; and over $125 million in a special purpose appropriation fund that could be available for another $200 million shortfall at our next forecast in June or September. We will also be working with the governor and agencies to prepare possible 1-2 percent reduction scenarios if our revenues continue to decline.

It was a hectic three weeks, but our 2007 regular session work and prep work prior to February made it possible for great bipartisan budget adjustments that have our state in great shape, come what may.