2 Oregon prisons may be closed to save school funding amid pandemic

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The Oregon State Capitol. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two Oregon prisons are on the chopping block, according to rebalanced budget proposal as state lawmakers consider how to save money for public education and other essential services amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic’s resulting economic recession.

The rebalanced budget proposal was released Thursday by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, Sens. Betsy Johnson Elizabeth Steiner Hayward and Rep. Dan Rayfield.

“The proposal judiciously uses a portion of the Education Stability Fund to spare students and teachers from devastating program cuts amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, while preserving a strong level of reserves to help weather upcoming budget cycles when state revenue is projected to further decline due to the dramatic impact the of the pandemic on Oregon’s economy,” the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means said in a statement on Thursday.

The minimum-security facilities identified in the proposed rebalanced budget — Shutter Creek Correctional Institution in North Bend and Warner Creek Correctional in Lakeview — house less than 800 inmates within the Oregon Department of Corrections, according to OPB. Shutter Creek Correctional would close now, while Warner Creek would close by 2023 at the latest, according to the proposed rebalanced budget’s plans.

The proposed rebalanced budget also includes other major budget changes, including position reductions and unfilled positions vacant for multiple state departments.

In May, state economists said Oregon faces an 11% decrease in revenue from the previous biennium as the pandemic triggered an economic recession.

Gov. Kate Brown said she expects there will be another summer session to address more budget issues, and the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittees will meet next week to hear public testimony on the proposed rebalanced budget.

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