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Majority Leaders: Democratic Leadership Will Weather Tough TimesSalem-News.com
Nolan and Devlin express disappointment in lack of Republican cooperation.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Despite news of a precipitous drop in state revenues caused by the global financial crisis, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate expressed confidence in the legislature’s ability to reconcile budgets for the current biennium and plan for the next.
The state faces a shortfall of $800 million for the remainder of the 2007-2009 budget. Legislative budget writers on Wednesday unveiled a list of $350.2 million in potential cuts to state services for the current biennium. Shortfalls for the next biennium are projected to be much greater.
“The fact of the matter is that we’re in very tough times. You don’t need a revenue forecast to see that. You can ask families across Oregon and they can confirm how hard things are,” said Senate Majority Leader Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin). “These numbers we saw today are the harsh reality of a changing world where everyone is feeling the strain of this recession.”
Neighboring states have already had to make drastic service cuts and must make more in the future, including lay-offs of thousands of workers. Democrats were able to protect Oregonians from severe service cuts until now because of prudent budgeting, creation of a new general purpose Rainy Day Fund, and a strong ending balance in 2007 and 2008. During the recession earlier this decade, Republican control of the legislature demonstrated the negative consequences of reckless budget management.
“For a time, we held off the national economic tsunami brought on by the failures of Republican governance. For a time we were able to avoid the effects of a conservative ideology that gave tax cuts to the rich and allowed corporations to operate without boundaries,” said House Majority Leader Mary Nolan (D-Portland). “But now that tsunami is at our shores and Democrats must craft responsible solutions to the problems caused by an irresponsible Party.”
Despite comments to the contrary, Democratic leaders have made a good faith effort to include Republicans in the current budget process. Both parties participated in discussions about potential cuts due to rapidly falling revenues.
The Democratic co-chairs of Ways and Means have met with both Republicans and Democrats, seeking out input, and giving both sides of the aisle the same briefings about potential cuts to state government.
“Democratic leadership has extended opportunities to our colleagues across the aisle to work with us productively to find a resolution to the state’s financial crisis,” said Devlin. “We sincerely hope that they will decide to contribute constructively to these discussions. As yet, they have not.”
Devlin and Nolan said the Republican Leadership has not offered a list of specific cuts or specific sources of new revenue to balance the budget, nor have they said how they plan to fund education, healthcare or public safety. So far this session Republicans spoke against the state’s economic stimulus plan and against measures to protect the state’s budget.
“Right now, we are dealing with the mess created from years of disastrous economic mismanagement by Republicans in the White House on down. Now they are sitting on the sidelines throwing more garbage on the pile while we try to clean it up,” said Nolan.
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