We know that Oregon is at a crossroads, and we continue to face difficult choices. The deepest recession in decades is lingering, impacting both families and state tax revenues. The choices we make today must be designed to spur our economic recovery and build the best possible future for the people and businesses of our state.
The Legislature has asked each State Agency and Department to prepare a list of proposed cuts to general fund dollars ranging from 3–14%. After the Legislative session in February which cut state budgets and basic safety net services, we are now cutting into bone and making choices that result in homelessness, hunger and other negative outcomes for our families. You can see the list of proposed cuts to Housing and Community Services here and the Department of Human Services here.
The unfortunate reality is that too many Oregonians are having to choose between paying for rent and paying for medicine and food. We know what works, and we need to make sure that we have systems in place to ensure that everyone has the basic necessities. The important and critical basic safety net services which DHS operates are designed to ensure that families can meet their basic needs. However, cuts made during the previous Legislative session have already stripped these programs bare and no longer give families pathways out of poverty. The further cuts outlined in the documents for public comment would make severe cuts to helping families meet their basic needs and would allow too many of our families and neighbors to fall into homelessness or worse.
At many pivotal moments in our state’s history we have chosen to build a brighter future for ourselves and our children. We did this not simply by asking what we can afford to do today but also asking what we must do to protect our future. Our state has tremendous resources at our disposal—hard working people, ingenuity and financial resources that can all be brought to bear in order to build a better quality of life for our state. The state budget decisions we make reflect our commitment to making that future a reality. Getting there may require more of our collective resources, but our future is worth it.
The Legislature will meet this week and hear a Revenue Forecast which will give us next steps. Will the Legislature implement these cuts? Or will they make different choices? We ask that the Legislature look to state agencies and departments which do not provide basic safety net services to make any additional cuts; look to revenue solutions; and look to tax-side expenditures including both deductions and tax credits.