Governor Kate Brown announced this week that she will convene a second special session of the Oregon Legislature starting Monday, Aug. 10, to address the state’s devastating budget shortfall that has arisen in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This crisis has impacted all of us — Oregon families, businesses, non-profits, and local governments have all had to cut costs,” she said in a press statement Friday. “The State of Oregon has been tightening its belt as well. With a nearly $1 billion budget deficit in the current biennium, there is more work to do.”
The governor had previously placed the number in the $3 billion range.
But Friday’s release noted that the governor’s office has already proposed $150 million in General Fund savings for the biennium, and that state agencies have worked to find efficiencies by reducing non-critical spending, delaying new programs, halting non-essential travel and leaving positions unfilled.
She admitted the decisions facing the state “will not be easy,” but must be addressed this biennium to prevent even more difficult choices down the line.
“Unlike the federal government, Oregon must balance our state budget,” she said. “State and local governments have been left reeling from the economic downturn. For months, we have waited for Congress to take action, and it is still my hope that they will include aid for states and local governments in the coronavirus relief package currently being negotiated.”
Governor Brown highlighted the need to preserve critical services like health care, education, and senior services during the pandemic, along with addressing the disparities in state support for Oregon’s underserved communities, particularly Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander and other communities of color.
“I would like to thank legislators for beginning this work already, and I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and crafting an updated budget that serves all Oregonians,” she said.
Later Friday, Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod, of Stayton, offered a bit of lefthanded praise for the governor’s calling a special session to address the budget shortfall — something he and his counterpart, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, of Canby, have been demanding for weeks.
“Senate Republicans have been willing to work on the budget since before the governor called the first special session earlier this summer,” Girod said in the statement.
Though the governor noted her support for the Legislature to also builds on matters considered in the first special session, including additional police accountability reforms, Girod signaled that the GOP contingent would show little patience for this course.
“If we diverge from the stated purpose of addressing the budget, this second special session will make a mockery of the legislative process yet again,” he said. “Policy bills should be off the table. The focus should be on the budget.”