The legislature must enact HB 2649 and HB 3405 to avoid further harming Oregonians, particularly the most vulnerable
The legislature will soon vote on bills that would raise taxes on the wealthiest Oregonians and corporations. If the votes fail, or if the measures are referred to the voters and fail there, middle- and low-income Oregonians — those hardest hit by the economic downturn — should brace for even greater pain than what's already on the way.
A good indication of the kind of pain that would follow from the defeat of the revenue-raising bills — HB 2649 and HB 3405 — is the harm contained in the budget cuts already penciled in. Those cuts are largely set out in the budget that the Co-Chairs of the legislature's Joint Ways and Means Committee released in late May.
The Co-Chairs' budget proposes about $2 billion in cuts, while assuming that there will be an additional $800 million in newly raised revenue to avoid even deeper cuts.
Set forth below are examples, not a comprehensive list, of the cuts in the Co-Chairs' budget. A table at the end summarizes all General Fund cuts and job losses by state agency. (Complete details about the state budget, including the Co-Chairs' budget proposal, are available at www.leg.state.or.us/budget/home.htm.)
As the examples of cuts reveal, serious pain is already on the way for Oregonians across the state. Because more than 90 percent of the state's General Fund budget goes to education, public safety and health care and other human services, most of the cuts fall under those categories. Oregon's most vulnerable residents — seniors, children, the disabled, the unemployed and low-income families – will be hit hard. Middle-income families will also bear much of the burden. The cuts will eliminate the equivalent of 1,700 state jobs and result in the loss of federal matching funds.
The examples below illustrate only the direct impact of the proposed budget cuts, not their indirect effects. They don't show, for example, the loss of private-sector jobs dependent on state spending, such as home care workers and daycare providers. Nor do they include cuts to supplies, training, routine maintenance, legal advice, travel and other basic expenses.
With the Co-Chairs' budget already close to the bone, the legislature needs to follow through on the Co-Chair's built-in assumption of additional revenue. Failure to enact HB 2649 and HB 3405 will heighten the pain for vulnerable populations.
Impact on students
Reduced access to early child development programs
670 children will be cut from Oregon Head Start Prekindergarten, missing out on early education and related services that can provide a solid start in school and life. This cut partially unravels progress made when the legislature appropriated funding in 2007-09 to increase the share of eligible children served from 60 to 75 percent. With the proposed cuts, 1 in 3 eligible young children from poor families will not have access to Head Start.
Early intervention and special education programs for young children (birth to age 5) with developmental delays, already stretched thin, will not be able to accommodate increases in the number of children needing services. By providing early access to supports such as speech therapy, physical therapy and vision and hearing services, these programs reduce the need for special education later on, helping children get ready to enter school and allowing them to reach their full potential.
Higher college tuition, reduced access to programs
Undergraduate students at Oregon's public universities will see their tuition and fees raised. A full-time undergraduate at the University of Oregon, for example, faces a tuition increase of 7 percent each year over the next two years, which will mean an increase of $450 in 2009-10 and another $482 in 2010-11. Those increases will more than cancel out increases in the maximum Pell Grant award provided under the federal stimulus package and federal budget appropriations to help low-income students finance a college degree.
Community colleges, which are seeing historic enrollment increases as unemployed Oregonians seek retraining, face a 15 percent budget cut. Portland Community College, for example, saw enrollment increase by 18.9 percent in spring 2009, while Central Oregon Community College closed spring term enrollment to new students in late March and reports long wait lists for courses. Students at most schools can expect to see increases in tuition and fees as well as difficulty enrolling in classes.
Impact on children and families
Fewer supports to ensure babies and children with developmental disabilities are healthy and well cared for at home
Fewer at-risk infants and young children will be screened for chronic health conditions and developmental delays because of the reduction of the Babies First! Program. The program, which served 11,000 clients in 2007/2008, will see a 38 percent cut in funding.
Waiting lists will increase for Healthy Start, which helps prevent child abuse and neglect. The program helps parents of newborns gain parenting skills, connect with health care providers and services and create good learning environments for their children.
Families caring for children with developmental disabilities will lose help in planning how to care for the child at home. The program, which currently serves 1,400 families, is slated for a 35 percent cut.
Less assistance for children in foster care or to help keep children out of foster care
Children in foster care, shelter care or residential group care will not have access to one-time payments for special or extraordinary needs, such as transportation to visit their parents or clothing.
Children with special needs who are in the foster care system could experience difficulties in getting a guardianship set up, as payments for special care services are phased out. The cut will affect 113 children. Some may remain in foster care longer than they would otherwise, while others may be returned from guardianship to foster care.
Adoptions of foster care children will be at greater risk of failure, because the support services that adoptive families receive from the state will be cut.
There will be fewer opportunities to find better ways to keep children out of foster care or return them to their family sooner, as innovative programs lose their funding source.
Cuts to programs that help families struggling with drug and alcohol addiction issues
The majority of child welfare cases involve parents with addiction issues. With the Family Support Teams program on the chopping block, parents of children in foster care will be less likely to receive alcohol and drug treatment services.
Local programs to prevent alcohol and drug use among children with parents who have substance abuse problems will no longer get any help from the General Fund. The cut will impact more than 1,500 families.
Impact on low-income Oregonians
Reduced benefits for families with dependent children
More than 5,100 low-income families with children that are trying to achieve self-sufficiency and stability will see their cash assistance and related services reduced or eliminated.
Families on cash assistance will have a harder time returning to work as employment and training services are reduced.
Reduced access to child care for working families
Low-income working parents who receive assistance paying for child care will see their monthly co-pays increase by $5 to $10. In addition, a reduction in the maximum amount the state will pay child care providers will make it more difficult for parents to find stable, quality care.
Reduced access to public health care and nutrition programs
Adults on Medicaid (OHP Plus) will lose coverage for preventive dental care such as cleanings, fillings, and checkups. Only dental emergencies will be treated.
The same group of adults, except for pregnant women, will also lose vision coverage.
1,382 previously uninsured, low-income families and individuals will lose health insurance premium subsidies.
Low-income seniors, young children and women who are pregnant or caring for an infant will not get coupons to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and farm stands. In 2007-09, 6,891 seniors, children, and mothers benefitted from the program, while local farmers earned $211,000 in business income from the coupons.
Fewer services for homeless Oregonians
1,235 homeless Oregonians will not receive services related to emergency shelters, such as nutritional assistance and referrals.
Impact on seniors and Oregonians with physical or mental disabilities
Fewer supports to help adults with developmental disabilities or mental illness find work and participate in their communities
Developmentally disabled adults will see a reduction in services that help them participate in work and activities outside of their home, allowing them to develop skills and participate in their communities.
820 Oregonians with mental illness won't get help finding jobs or learn new skills that will help them land a job. Without work, some will have difficulty managing their illness and may require more intensive care, including treatment in the state hospital.
Cuts to supports that allow seniors and adults with disabilities stay in their homes
Seniors and adults with disabilities will see reductions in "non-critical" services that help them live independently at home, such as medication management, meal preparation, laundry, shopping and transportation.
Reductions in training and benefits for Home Care Workers will make it more difficult for seniors and people with physical disabilities to get quality in-home care.
Impact on public safety and public safety workers
Cuts to corrections officer training
Newly hired corrections officers will receive on-the-job training rather than attending a five-week training course at the state training academy in Salem, making it more difficult for them to prepare adequately for dealing with inmates in crowded prison conditions.
Reductions in crime investigation
44 detectives who investigate drug enforcement, identity theft and major crimes, including child abuse, will have their positions cut. Although detectives are likely to be shifted into 39 highway patrol positions being added, crime investigations will be curtailed and it is unlikely that counties will have the resources to pick up the work.
Cuts to the Oregon State Police forensics lab will make it difficult for local police, who rely on the state lab for evidence analysis, to pursue crime investigations.
Fewer resources to supervise and treat youth offenders
Cuts to slots in youth correctional facilities will shift high-risk youth to community-based treatment, while cuts to community placement funds will reduce resources and treatment options at the local level. The Oregon Youth Authority anticipates that such cuts will lead to more juvenile arrests and more re-arrests. In addition, cuts to the Oregon Youth Authority will eliminate the equivalent of 275 jobs.