PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — State agencies across Oregon are making tough decisions about cutting staff and programs to balance the state budget, which was deeply impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
From police to foster care, proposed cuts of almost 20% across the board were ordered by Gov. Kate Brown. And that’s a starting point. Brown said everything has to be on the table for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
While she hopes federal funding will backfill much of the expected $3 billion shortfall, there is no guarantee.
One of the biggest costs for state government is staffing.
The Department of Human Services, the agency that helps care for and protect some of the most vulnerable people in the state from foster kids to seniors and those with disabilities, said it will have to lay off people and not hire for 350 open positions.
“This list has 107 proposed layoffs on it,” said Eric Moore, the CFO for the Oregon DHS.
The Department of Education is looking at $600 million less for local schools — and that would mean teacher and staff cuts.
“We’re looking at all areas,” said Portland Schools Deputy Superintendent of Operations Claire Hertz. “It is likely, yes, that teaching positions would be lost.”
Prison officials said the only way they could make the cuts is by completely closing more than half of the state’s prisons. The Oregon State Police said they’d have to lay off 200 people and close several posts.
There’s more trouble on the road. Fewer drivers means fewer people filling up their tanks — and $25 million less in the state highway fund last month.
“There are cities and counties that depend on that gas tax money,” said ODOT’s Assistant Director of Finance Travis Brouwer. “State and local will be in trouble if it’s cut back.”
Unemployment from the pandemic has led to tax money drying up. Next week, state economists put out their latest revenue forecast.
Oregon has saved for tough times and put aside $1.5 billion in a reserve fund. Gov. Brown’s office said Wednesday once that economic forecast is released she’ll work closely with the legislature on the best way to balance the budget using a combination of federal funds and reserves — and, potentially, some cuts.
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