A Better Way Forward Through The Budget Crisis

During these tough economic times, we need to do everything we can to protect the middle class. We need to control health care costs, protect the public schools that are the key to our kids’ futures, and prevent big increases in college tuition that middle class families in Oregon can’t afford.

New information, including research conducted by SEIU Local 503, shows that lawmakers can avoid making many of the deep budget cuts that would affect middle-class families. By combing the budget for savings and—most importantly—making decisions based on Oregonians’ priorities, legislators can prevent some of the worst proposed cuts to schools, health care, and public safety. The alternative is making even deeper cuts to critical services.

The report released by SEIU, “Moving Oregon Forward: A Better Way,” finds nearly $1 billion that could be saved from the state budget. Some of the highlights:

•    $71 million saved by cutting middle management, preserving services provided by frontline workers

•    $107 million saved through a 10% cut in what the state pays for services and supplies to outside contractors. We need to negotiate better deals with state contractors, like big banks, phone companies, and utilities, so everyone is doing their part

•    $122 million recovered from tax evaders by increasing enforcement at the Department of Revenue

•    $143 million saved by eliminating or reducing big corporate tax breaks that aren’t accomplishing their goals.

•    $521 million saved by making a 15% reduction in the tax deductions and credits for households that make more than $200,000.

These savings won’t solve Oregon’s budget crisis. But, together, these approaches would lessen the impact of cuts to K12 schools, senior care, and community safety.  For instance, finding $500 million in savings and efficiencies would save the equivalent of more than 5,000 teaching jobs.

It’s Raining Now

These aren’t the only ways to save critical services. If we want to improve Oregon’s economy now and in the future, we should invest in the areas that are proven to make a difference, like K12 schools and higher education.

School districts and the state legislature should consider using reserve and Rainy Day Funds before cutting school days and laying off teachers.  Today’s situation is precisely what reserve funds were designed for.

Stop Digging

Most immediately, legislators shouldn’t make the crisis worse by giving out even more handouts to big corporations and the rich.

Right now, there are multiple bills in the legislature that would cut taxes on capital gains, giving a massive windfall to the rich at the expense of the middle class.

When Oregon is struggling just to keep our schools open, the last thing we should do is give away more money to the people who are still thriving during the recession. Instead of cutting services the middle class relies, we should make big corporations pay their fair share to get our budget balanced.

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