A Tale of Two Oregons: One for the Rich, and One for The Rest of Us

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This morning, L.M. Reese arrived at the state capitol to speak out against state budget cuts that would slash critical services to seniors and people with disabilities.

L.M., who uses a wheelchair, was one of more than 250 people who descended on Salem to deliver a message that deep budget cuts will have devastating impacts. He was joined by Charles Biggs, his in-home care provider, who also spoke out against the proposed cuts.

“If I lost Charles, I’d probably end up in a nursing home or on the doorstep of someone,” L.M. said.

Governor Kitzhaber’s proposed budget makes a disproportionate number of cuts to long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities, potentially leaving thousands of vulnerable Oregonians without access to critical care.

The proposed budget makes deep cuts to in-home care, which would normally force seniors into nursing homes. But it’s even worse than that. The proposed budget also makes large cuts to Medicaid payments to nursing homes—which could mean that there won’t even be beds available for people like L.M. if they lose their in-home care.

“By making cuts to assisted living facilities and nursing homes, people on Medicaid will have nowhere to go,” L.M. wrote in the testimony he handed out at the capitol.

But while L.M., Charles, and many others were fighting to limit cuts to basic services that help keep seniors alive, an entirely different group was just down the hall lobbying the state Senate. This group—the corporate lobbyists known as “The Oregon Committee”—couldn’t have been further removed from the critical needs of middle-class families. Instead, they were lobbying for… wait for it… big tax breaks for the rich.

Lobbyists for Associated Oregon Industries, the Oregon Business Council, and other corporate special interest groups pushed the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee for tax cuts to capital gains, which would be a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars for the rich. Capital gains are the profits that someone receives from selling assets like stocks.

So while the state is facing a budget crisis of $3.5 BILLION and considering making cuts that will close schools and leave ailing seniors with no place to go, corporate lobbyists are showing up to the legislature with their hands out, looking for more tax breaks for people who are still doing just fine through this recession.

Even worse, some legislators appear all too willing to side with the corporate lobby at the expense of seniors and the middle class.

At the hearing, Bill Olson, the co-chair of the Human Services Coalition of Oregon Tax and Revenue Committee, pointed out the shocking contrast between the demands of the corporate lobby and the needs of frail seniors.

Any tax cut for the rich that takes money away from basic senior services is deeply concerning, Olson said.

In this budget crisis, real people’s lives are at stake. Middle-class families are facing cuts to education, health care, public safety, and the critical services that are helping them just to stay afloat.

Suggesting that we should make things even worse for them in order to give a tax break to the rich is irresponsible and, frankly, immoral.

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