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Where Your Money Goes 

With the wrap-up of the Oregon Legislature, a look at how some parts of the budget shook out for Central Oregonians

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With the adjournment of the Legislature on July 7, many people have questions about the budget. In simple terms, what got funded and what got left on the table?

Per the Budget Information Brief provided by the Legislative Fiscal Office, the Oregon Legislature adopted a 2017-2019 budget from all sources of $74.432 billion. This is a 3.7 percent increase over the 2015-2017 legislatively approved budget.

Those are big numbers—overwhelming to the ordinary person. Funding transportation, education and health care took much of the attention of this legislative session, and are areas touching or impacting hundreds of thousands of Oregon's citizens.

K-12 Funding

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n the education arena, K-12 funding is the largest portion. The Legislature passed an $8.2 billion school funding package for the 2017-2019 biennium. Additionally, it funded Measure 98, passed last year to focus on career technical education, dropout prevention and college readiness, to the tune of $170 million—slightly over half of what was estimated necessary for full implementation. Bend-La-Pine is the 5th largest school district in Oregon—so how will it be impacted by these funding packages?

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Funding formulas are complicated. Brad Henry, chief operations and financial officer for the District, told the Source Weekly that based on all components, the State School Fund package would allow them to meet the current service level, but would not allow them to expand investments in programs. He further indicated that the only opportunity to expand programs and services will come with Measure 98 dollars. Because of its size, Bend-La-Pine already services the three areas covered in the bill (career and technical education, dropout prevention and college readiness) but the additional monies will allow them to supplement what they are doing and look for opportunities to enhance programs.

Henry emphasized that revenues are still not sufficient for the district to move back to pre-recession class sizes, though it has steadily moved in that direction. The recently adopted budget includes additional dollars for a projected 320 additional students in the District next year. (At the start of the 2016-17 school year, however, Bend-La Pine added 500 new students.)

"Many budget requests were left on the table
and many will argue that dollars are not always
spent in the right way.
Passing a budget is not always a pretty process.
In fact, it is often compared to making sausage."

Transportation Funding

T

ransportation was another large budget item. Though not the original $8 billion proposed, the $5.3 billion package passed in House Bill 2017 is heralded as the largest in Oregon history. The 146-page bill covers a broad spectrum of transportation issues, not the least of which was setting up the revenue mechanism to fund the 10-year transportation improvement package. Revenues will come from a variety of sources, including increases in the state gas tax over the next six years, a new $15 bike tax on bicycles costing $200 or more and vehicle registration fees, with the greatest increase on electric and fuel efficient vehicles, to even out those paying increased gas taxes. Each county and city gets its cut.

The process of passing this package was not always pretty, but as Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney—also the chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission—indicated to me, the process focused on the needs and challenges across the state that the current lack of investment in transportation was creating. Baney also pointed out that it was not just infrastructure improvements that are addressed by the legislation, but also opportunities for investment in public transit and various multi-modal transit options.

Baney indicated that the County is not yet counting the dollars until the legislation takes effect, (91 days after adjournment), but in estimates provided by the Association of Oregon Counties, Deschutes County will average $5.1 million per year over the 10-year life of the funding.

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Healthcare Funding

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regon passed two bills dealing with funding healthcare in Oregon, including Senate Bill 558, passed on the final day of the session. Referred to as Cover All Kids, it extended health care coverage to all children residing in Oregon whose family income is at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, and regardless of legal status. It also increased funding for children's health care by $36,113,214. This effectively opened the door to cover 17,600 children who had previously been ineligible.

Oregon also tackled the issue of Medicaid funding while staring down a barrel of uncertainty from the federal government. With the goal of continuing coverage for the approximately 350,000 Oregon Medicaid expansion recipients placed at risk by potential Congressional action, House Bill 2391 was passed and signed into law by the governor July 3. To provide the needed funding, HB 2391 extended by two years an existing provider tax on some hospitals, and increased the assessment by .07 percent, with some exceptions. It also created a 1.5 percent assessment on premiums of health insurers, the Public Employee Benefits Board and managed care organizations. Efforts are already underway to challenge much of this legislation through the ballot initiative process.

Many budget requests were left on the table, and many will argue that dollars are not always spent in the right way. Passing a budget is not always a pretty process. In fact, it is often compared to making sausage.

Judy Stiegler is an attorney, a former Oregon legislator and teaches political science at Central Oregon Community College.


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