Imagine being told you might have to cut your household budget by 25 percent. What would you give up? In the face of a possible $800 million shortfall that will have to be made up in the last five months of Oregon’s 2007-2009 biennium, that’s precisely what state agencies have been asked to figure out.
Now, before someone says we’re being alarmist, let’s get some facts straight. First, the federal stimulus package might make up a lot of that shortfall. And the governor may decide to dip into the state’s rainy day reserves. But there’s little doubt that no matter what happens the state faces some painful cuts. House speaker Dave Hunt has warned that “schools, human services, public safety, and all state services will be impacted by the effects of this global economic tsunami.”
Looking at the proposed cuts agency by agency paints a pretty grim picture of the not-too-distant future. Among the proposals: closing eight minimum security (and one medium security) prisons, and releasing the inmates; ending the school year a month early; reducing payment to foster parents by 20 percent; and eliminating funding for the sex offender registration program. That doesn’t include cuts to the OLCC, or the DOJ, or the DEQ, or the DFW… and on and on into alphabet soup land.
The Ways and Means co-chairs are currently reviewing the lists of potential cuts and waiting to find out how many they’ll have to make. They’ve outlined their budget review principles (pdf) and they’re looking for citizen input. How do you think the state should save money? What should be cut? What should be saved? Should we dip into the state’s rainy day fund? Or hold off in case a bigger storm is around the corner?