Worries continue this week for parents, teachers and students across the state as districts prepare to close schools and make other deep cuts.
Governor Kitzhaber’s budget gets more analysis focused on losses of federal funds, sizeable reductions in funding for schools, and increases in tax breaks. Co-speakers Hanna and Roblan get kudos for working together.
The Register Guard has an extensive article (http://www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/web/news/cityregion/25850091-41/full-job-thompson-oregon-jobs.csp) about the state of Oregon’s unemployed folks — more than 170,000 of ’em.
This week in the Oregon Legislature: plastic bags, virtual schools, handguns and honey
"This week in the Oregon Legislature is full of tough issues that aren’t likely to be resolved after only one public hearing."
School budget woes
House Democrats call Kitzhaber’s K-12 budget inadequate
"The first pushback to Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed budget for schools surfaced today when House Democratic leaders declared it too small. ‘The education budget itself needs work,’ said Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, who is one of the key lawmakers assigned to draft the final state spending plan for 2011-13."
Around the state districts planning to close schools
"Three school buildings are slated to close in Eugene. Local school administrators have also proposed closing three in Lake Oswego, and three in North Clackamas. Those are just a few of the districts feeling financial pressure, and planning to close school buildings. This week, Governor John Kitzhaber is expected to announce a new education team, charged with encouraging more school closures."
EDITORIAL: The source of the pressure
"Financial pressure on Oregon’s school districts will intensify in the next two-year budget cycle, with dismaying results already becoming visible in Eugene. By some measures, Oregon’s public education system is already one of the nation’s weakest, with class sizes among the largest and a school year among the shortest. The state has engaged in a decades-long program to squeeze school funding, with effects that may have been unintended but clearly are damaging."
How does Oregon pay for schools?
"The way Oregon pays for schools is unique, complicated – and frustrating, state school officials say. Money to support K-12 education comes from state income taxes, the biggest piece of the pie. Money also comes from the state lottery, state forestlands, local revenue and federal funds. Educators say the slippery slope began 20 years ago with voter passage of Measure 5, which capped property tax money for schools."
Springfield delays budget cuts
"The school district budget committee has decided to postpone the pain of crafting a 2011-12 budget as it waits for more information about revenue on the one hand and possible concessions from its unions and additional expenses on the other. The committee, which met this week for a first look at rough figures, saw an $82.5 million spending plan, $3.4 million less than the district’s 2010-11 budget. The bottom line at this early stage: That’s $10 million less than all the expenses the district sees looming."
OPINION: A chance to build on what’s working for our schools
"SUE LEVIN and SUE HILDICK — A few weeks ago, Oregon’s House of Representatives announced that Sara Gelser, a Democrat from Corvallis, and Matt Wingard, a Republican from West Linn, would serve as the co-chairs of the House Education Committee. That puts Gelser and Wingard in an unprecedented position, in a time of unprecedented challenges. Their shared power means that neither the Democratic nor Republican education agenda will automatically move to the fore. Instead, Gelser and Wingard face the challenge of putting together an agenda that’s first and foremost good for kids and one that can find support on both sides of the aisle."
OPINION: A new chance for legislators to enroll in higher ed
"DAVID SARASOHN — Like a seasoned TV reporter, state Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, begins with a couple of sharp, clear numbers. Oregon, he points out, has a median income only 91 percent of the national level. Washington has a median income 106 percent of the national level. Washington doesn’t even have an NBA team. What it does have, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is a perceptibly higher percentage of its population with a four-year college degree, 30.7 percent to Oregon’s 28.1 percent."
Hanna and Roblan = Buddy Act
Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan: The new buddy act running the Oregon House of Representatives
"A hard-driving Republican businessman and a Democratic educator known for his geniality have become the biggest buddy act in Oregon politics as they set off on the difficult task of guiding an evenly divided Oregon House. Democrat Arnie Roblan andRepublican Bruce Hanna are taking turns wielding the gavel as the first House co-speakers in Oregon history."
The politics behind the Hanna-Roblan partnership
"Their ‘buddy act,’ as I termed it, sure seems like it could bring political dividends to both of them. The last great buddy act in Oregon politics involved Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and the state’s junior senator for 12 years, Republican Gordon Smith. Wyden and Smith started out as opponents who ran against each other in the 1996 Senate special election. Wyden won, but Smith was then elected to the other Senate seat later that year."
The governor’s budget
As state leaders cut funds federal dollars disappear
"State officials detailed proposed cuts Friday to Oregon’s health and human services budget. The reduced state funding would trigger even bigger reductions in what Oregon gets from the federal government. Oregon’s general fund cut to the Department of Human Services and the state Health Authority totals just over $1.1 billion. But cutting that deeply into state funding means giving up more than $1.6 billion in matching funds from the feds."
After years of growth, Oregon’s budget is set to fall
"When Gov. John Kitzhaber put together his state spending proposal for the coming two years, he faced a vastly different landscape than that of his first term, which began in 1995. During the eight budget cycles since then, total state spending has grown between 5 percent and 24 percent each biennium, a Statesman Journal analysis shows."
Overhaul of state agencies starts to build momentum
"Local legislators and agency leaders supporting Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed budget say it’s past time for Oregon to overhaul its health care and social services systems. Eliminating redundant programs and strengthening those that provide the best return on their investment is a good first step, said Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford. Bates, a practicing physician, was instrumental in forming the newly launched Oregon Health Authority."
Kitzhaber proposes tax breaks for creating jobs
"Gov. John Kitzhaber’s budget plan awards tens of millions of dollars’ worth of new tax breaks that he hopes will pay off in new economic activity and job creation. The Democratic governor so far has proposed to soften the tax hit on certain investment income, expand a tax credit that provides subsidies for movie and TV shoots in Oregon, and extend a scaled-back version of a business energy tax credit that’s set by law to expire."’
EDITORIAL: The governor’s budget: It’s either reform or bust
"The only way Kitzhaber’s spending blueprint adds up is if Oregonians answer his call for long-overdue changes to restrain costs in education and health care. Gov. John Kitzhaber has produced a budget only a toddler or a state trooper could love. Early childhood education gets a boost and state police get a dedicated funding source, if voters agree. But other essential services get flat funding or a painful structural overhaul, or in the case of schools, both."
Layoffs expected at MacLaren
"The agency that runs MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn will be forced to cut the number of beds by almost 50 percent in the next two years, according to a state budget released this week. On Tuesday, Gov. John Kitzhaber announced the Governor’s Balanced Budget for 2011-2013, making wide-scale cuts to Oregon Youth Authority (OYA), the agency that oversees MacLaren."
EDITORIAL: A new wind
Albany Democrat Herald
"You can tell that a new wind is blowing because of the change of administrations in Salem. Governor Kitzhaber started with a budget that holds the line and calls for no new taxes. Now he has ordered a halt to OWIN, a project to build hundreds of radio towers around the state so that emergency-response agencies could better communicate with each other in a catastrophe."
Oregon lawmakers to consider school energy proposal
"One of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s top environmental and economic priorities will be getting its first review in the Legislature. The House Education Committee is scheduled to begin working on Kitzhaber’s school weatherization plan on Monday. Kitzhaber wants to put people to work by retrofitting schools and other public buildings with modern energy-efficient technology. Supporters of his plan hope to protect the environment while helping schools save money on their energy costs."
Difficult time for Oregon’s underemployed
"Lee Thompson can’t help it. Each day when the 54-year-old Eugene man rides his bicycle home from his part-time job as a sign waver for a mattress store, he stops on a bridge and peers over the railing at what has become — for him — the economic abyss. Every day he sees a new tent pitched inside a blackberry bush down there. Every day he dreads the idea of finding himself sleeping at the Eugene Mission or under a bridge."
Tax changes means checks from PERS likely reduced
"A retired state worker called in early last week, perturbed about his latest PERS payment. The money deposited into his account looked short. A little quick math, and the retiree figured he’d received 5 percent less than usual. He called up PERS to complain and was told that more money was being withheld from his monthly benefit due to changes in the federal and state tax tables."
EDITORIAL: Change in public records law overdue
"The public’s business should be conducted in public. That concept is a central pillar of our democracy. But politicians keep carving away at it, finding excuses to shield more and more decisions from public view. State Attorney General John Kroger wants to reverse that trend.