SALEM, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers are leaving town with a balanced budget. The legislature adjourned its first annual session Monday night with a flurry of activity.
It had much of the pomp of a full length session.
“The 2012 regular session of the 76th legislative assembly is hereby adjourned sine die,” declared Republican Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna.
But when lawmakers wrapped up their work Monday night it marked an end to a whirlwind 34 day session. A session made possible by a voter-approved ballot measure. It moved Oregon off a short list of states with every-other-year legislatures. The chief objective also turned out to be one of the last orders of business. Rebalancing the budget, which had fallen into a hole 200 million dollars deep.
“There will be no prisons closed or inmates released,” says Democrat Richard Devlin.
He’s the chief budget writer in the Oregon Senate. Lawmakers also held the line on more cuts to public schools and mostly held off cuts to social services. How did they do it? They tapped surpluses in a few specialized accounts to fund general government programs. Republican House budget-writer Dennis Richardson calls the solution a miracle of sorts, but allows that there might be a few unpleasant surprises lurking in the fine print.
“Coming up with $200 million in this kind of a financial situation that we are in was not an easy thing to do. So we may have made mistakes. We just hope you’ll give us grace and forgiveness. But if you have pet areas, they may have been cut or harmed, but it wasn’t intentional,” RIchardson says.
Democrats largely hailed the session as a success. Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum called it quote “successful on all fronts.” But Republicans including Senator Alan Olsen complained that lawmakers failed to pass much legislation aimed at job creation.
“As we begin to do a post mortem on the first annual session, we have to admit that the legislature has failed to show real leadership on the one pressing emergency that arises above all others,” Olson says.
In the drive to adjournment, it looked like some major legislation would die on the vine. But in the end, a flurry of last-minute votes sent most measures to the finish line. That includes a measure to give struggling homeowners more tools to stave off foreclosure. Another measure would create a health insurance exchange catering to individuals and small businesses. That was one of several priority measures championed by Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber.
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network