Also will press for more police accountability reforms
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown will call lawmakers back to the Capitol beginning Aug. 10 to try to fill a billion-dollar budget hole due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“This crisis has impacted all of us—Oregon families, businesses, non-profits, and local governments have all had to cut costs,” Brown said in a statement Friday afternoon announcing the planned return of legislators.
Business closures have caused tax revenues to plunge and legislators need to deal with a more than $1 billion budget deficit for the current two-year spending plan.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that under a framework released earlier this month, dealing with that shortfall could involve closing two state prisons.
Also, a special committee charged with looking into police reforms following the killing of George Floyd has been working on measures that could bolster limits on tear gas and chokeholds and change the system by which police discipline cases are settled.
Brown says she has already proposed $150 million in general fund savings for this current spending period.
Republican leaders urged Brown and Democrats, who hold strong majorities in the House and Senate, to focus on the budget during the special session.
“Policy bills should be off the table,” Sen. Republican Leader Fred Girod, R- Stayton, said in a statement.
Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem, also said attention must be paid to addressing the huge budget issues.
“Covid-19 upended our economy and put state services at risk,” Courtney said. “We have another long session coming in January. Now is the time for the budget.”
In mid-July, legislative budget leaders said they would try to protect critical spending on public education, health care and child welfare and maintain funding for Oregon State Police and fighting wildfires. Ideas floated last month include a mix of nearly $400 million in cuts and administrative savings and pulling another $400 million from a state reserve fund for schools.
News release from Gov. Brown:
SALEM -- Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday she will convene a special session of the Oregon Legislature at 8 a.m. on Monday, August 10 to rebalance the state budget by addressing the state revenue shortfall created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brown issued the following statement on the need for lawmakers to convene:
“This crisis has impacted all of us — Oregon families, businesses, non-profits, and local governments have all had to cut costs. The state of Oregon has been tightening its belt as well. With a nearly $1 billion budget deficit in the current biennium, there is more work to do.
“These decisions will not be easy. Oregon has been smart with our reserves and saved for a rainy day, preparing us to weather this economic storm. But if we use too much of our savings now, then we’ll be stuck with an even bigger budget gap for the next biennium. Putting off tough decisions this summer will only leave us with impossible choices next January.
“Unlike the federal government, Oregon must balance our state budget. State and local governments have been left reeling from the economic downturn. For months, we have waited for Congress to take action, and it is still my hope that they will include aid for states and local governments in the coronavirus relief package currently being negotiated.
“We need to preserve critical services like health care, education, and senior services during this pandemic. And, we must do more to address the disparities in state support for Oregon’s underserved communities, particularly our Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and other communities of color. I would like to thank legislators for beginning this work already, and I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and crafting an updated budget that serves all Oregonians.”
In her proclamation calling the special session, the governor also noted her support for urgent legislation that builds on matters considered in the first special session, including additional police accountability reforms.
Governor Brown has already proposed $150 million in General Fund savings for the biennium. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, state agencies have worked to find efficiencies by reducing non-critical spending, delaying new programs, halting non-essential travel, and leaving positions unfilled.
Governor Brown said she is convening the special session under her authority pursuant to Article V, section 12, of the Oregon Constitution.