With the next session of the state Legislature only a month away, Gov. Ted Kulongoski has presented what he calls a "Hope and Opportunity" budget for the 2007-09 biennium.
The budget calls for funding increases in public education, children's health, law enforcement and criminal justice and renewable energy research.
"We are entering an era of great opportunity for Oregon," Kulongoski told reporters, legislators and government officials during the official rollout of the state budget. "We have the ability to do more, the opportunity to do better and the responsibility to do our best."
For the first time in eight years, he said, Oregon has the resources to keep pace with inflation and population growth.
"But for the first time in many years, we also have additional resources—$820 million above this level—to restore, improve and expand critical services," Kulongoski added.
The bulk of these new resources will be used to improve public schools and stabilize funding for the state's 198 school districts, Kulongoski said. Access to post-secondary education also will be expanded for high school graduates and adults in the workforce who seek to upgrade their skills.
Kulongoski said the improving economy will help to:
• Rebalance Oregon's tax system to provide more equity for working families and stability for essential services;
• Redirect the state corporate "kicker" to a rainy day fund, rather than let it go to corporations and shareholders;
• Increase the $10 corporate minimum tax;
• Raise Oregon's tobacco tax to match the tax rates now in effect in Washington state;
• Find a stable funding source for the Oregon State Police.
Here's a summary of budget highlights
• The budget funds K-12 schools at $6.06 billion, or a 14.2 percent increase over 2005-07.
• Provides access to Head Start/Oregon Pre-Kindergarten for all eligible 3- and 4-year olds by adding an additional $39 million from an increase in the corporate minimum tax.
• Implement a new "shared responsibility model" for college assistance that will make post-secondary education affordable for all Oregonians: Grants will increase from an average of $1,200 to $1,800 per year and eligibility will be extended to 42,000 students in households with incomes up to $60,000 per year by 2009-11.
• Increase funding for community colleges by 12.6 percent and begin 12 capital construction projects.
• Raise allocations to the Oregon University System by 14.6 percent and begin 45 capital construction deferred maintenance projects.
Healthy Kids Plan
• Offer affordable health insurance options to cover, within three years, 95 percent of the 117,000 children currently going without health insurance. Mental health services, treatment for substance abuse, and dental care also will be covered.
• Add 13 new school-based health centers, bringing the total to 60 centers in 25 counties.
• Add 139 new state troopers for around-the-clock coverage on major highways.
• Expand health coverage to an additional 10,000 to 15,000 low-income Oregonians through the Oregon Health Plan "standard" program, above the 24,000 currently served.
• Invest an additional $6 million in the Healthy Start program.
• Expand basic police training by $6 million to include complex, real-life scenarios.
• Increase the Community Corrections budget by $25 million to reflect the actual costs to counties.
• Fund the Oregon Innovation Council Innovation Plan by $38.2 million to pay for ocean wave energy start-ups, develop nanoscience and support research and development in manufacturing and Oregon food industries
• Increase funding for the 365 bridge projects.
• Sell another $100 million in Lottery bonds
• Keep funds in reserve: By the end of the 2007-09 biennium, budget reserves are expected to total $902 million, or 6 percent of the General Fund/Lottery Funds budget.