Monday, November 30, 2009

Legislature Releases Potential Cuts If 66 & 67 Fail

The Oregon Legislature late today released a list of potential budget cuts if voters reject $733 million in tax increases that are on the ballot in January.  The list is similar in tone, if not specific content, to a pair of lists generated by Legislative numbers-crunchers earlier this year when lawmakers were exploring options to patch up holes in the '07-'09 and '09-'11 budgets.  This time legislative leaders asked agencies to come up with 5% to 10% cuts in their current budget; cuts that House Speaker Dave Hunt says would be "needed to balance the budget" if voters turn down Measures 66 and 67.

Like all lists of potential budget cuts, this one should be taken with a grain of salt.  That's not to say cuts won't happen if the tax hikes are rejected at the ballot box--but the actual cuts may bear little resemblance to the current list.  Consider, for example, that the Department of Corrections says they could achieve their 10% reduction by closing six state prisons tomorrow.  Clearly that isn't going to happen, never mind the fact that doing so would mean making budget cuts now in anticipation of a specific result of an election that hasn't even happened yet.