In his recommended budget, the Governor has unfortunately ignored the resounding results of election that wrapped just a few weeks ago, and has missed an opportunity to provide real money for schools and critical services by closing big tax loopholes for large corporations and the rich.
The Governor’s budget continues the status quo of giving away tax dollars through runaway tax breaks. The State of Oregon currently gives away $32 billion in tax breaks every two years–an increase of $3.4 billion (12%) in just the past few years.
Reining in these out-of-control tax breaks—particularly for large corporations and the wealthy—could provide hundreds of millions of dollars to fund Oregon’s basic priorities: Our schools, senior care, and the basic services that keep our communities safe and healthy.
In the election that ended just three weeks ago, voters in Oregon and the rest of the nation weighed in loudly about how they expect elected leaders to protect priority services.
President Obama campaigned on a plan to raise the tax rates on households that make more than $250,000. He won in Oregon by a 12-point margin. Even Congressional Republicans across the country have now been forced to admit that new revenue has to be part of a balanced budget.
Closer to home, Oregon voters approved two-thirds of the local money measures this November to fund their local schools and priority services. By an overwhelming majority, they voted to reform the corporate kicker and put those funds into schools. And they rejected a ballot measure that would have cut hundreds of millions of dollars from schools and critical services just to give a tax break to the wealthy.
The lesson is clear: Voters believe that large corporations and the rich should pay their share, and that middle-class families can’t absorb any more cuts to basic services.
Today’s release of the Governor’s Recommended Budget unfortunately doesn’t come close to meeting the needs and priorities of middle-class families.
For the most part, the Governor’s budget provides essentially flat budgets for most critical services. The small increases recommended for a few agencies don’t keep up with inflation or the increased costs of providing basic services.
Between 2010 and 2012, Oregon schools cut approximately 7,000 teachers and school employees, giving Oregon the fourth most overcrowded classrooms in the nation. The Governor’s recommended budget does almost nothing to change that; in fact, we could lose many more teachers.
The result will be even more overcrowded classrooms, shorter school years, higher tuition, and fewer services for seniors and people with disabilities. Middle-class families have already spent too many years under the burden of ongoing cuts.
The Governor’s Recommended Budget is just the first step in a lengthy process of drafting Oregon’s budget. We’re hopeful that the legislative process will be fruitful in finding ways to fund middle-class priorities.