PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Gov. Kate Brown revealed her recommendations for the 2021-23 Oregon budget during a press conference on Tuesday.
Brown said the budget focuses on key challenges facing Oregonians: the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery from the devastating 2020 wildfire season, and taking steps to end systemic racism and address racial disparities in Oregon.
It’s a bare bones budget proposal, which was expected after a year of pandemic shutdowns, protests and devastating wildfires.
“The pandemic has led to a state budget shortfall that will require not only scrapping plans for long needed investments, but also making small and difficult cuts on services and programs that affect Oregonians’ lives,” the governor said.
Brown said the top budget priority is the pandemic response. It includes money to modernize Oregon’s public health care system and protect seniors living in assisted living and nursing homes.
Brown said fighting COVID-19 will cost the State of Oregon at least another $685 million over the next year and she maintains the state can’t do it alone.
“Honestly, it’s time for Washington, DC to get its act together,” she said. “Unlike the federal government, state governments have to balance our budget. We have to meet the needs of the pandemic. Our revenues are down as a result of the pandemic.”
Her plan does increase funding for housing and homelessness related to the pandemic. There are investments in education, rural broadband along with programs focuse on improving racial inequities.
That said, Gov. Brown stressed the pain of 2020 is reflected in the budget.
“Let me be very clear. This budget doesn’t put enough money in schools. It doesn’t make the investments in public health we need. It’s a budget built on sacrifice and hard choices. And while the state can deliver the core services that Oregonians expect us to, it doesn’t go far enough to heal the pain of 2020 because Oregon alone can’t do it.”
A key priority in the budget is to secure additional coronavirus relief funds from Congress. The current federal relief funds are set to expire at the end of the year.
Reaction to the 2021-23 Oregon budget is mixed
n a statement, Senate Leader Fred Girod (R-Lyons) said the governor’s proposal “is a ship without a rudder. She panders to political interests but fails to support all hard-working Oregonians.”
He said there are “millions” of dollars from the first federal relief package that hasn’t yet been spent. “Money from the federal government has limitations, and there is no guarantee that federal money will go towards the holes left in the Governor’s budget. Clearly, the Governor has been asleep at the wheel.”
House Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) assailed the health care cuts.
“She is making a mistake by cutting health care and the legislature should reject it. Health care should be prioritized, not put on the chopping block or punted to the federal government,” Drazan said. “The governor’s proposed budget fails to recognize the pressing needs of Oregonians for access to a reliable health care safety net throughout this pandemic.”
The CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems said it’s not nearly enough. “The governor has chosen to propose direct cuts to hospitals in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in a century,” said Becky Hultberg.
Oregon’s university presidents thanked Brown for avoiding cuts.
“We thank Governor Brown for mitigating cuts to the public university support fund, sustaining key statewide programs, and championing an important increased investment in state financial aid for low income Oregonians through the Oregon Opportunity Grant,” the Oregon Council of Presidents said in a statement.
The Oregon Beverage Alliance thanked Brown for not including harmful tax increases on beer, wine and cider in the state budget.