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Posts published in “Day: January 12, 2009”

OR: The mission continues

Ted Kulongoski

Ted Kulongoski

Compare the state of the state addresses by Idaho's Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and Oregon's Governor Ted Kulongoski, and you could hardly imagine they were delivered at nearly the same hour on the same day, each facing similar economic and social pressures. The speeches could hardly be more difference.

Both proposed transportation and some other infrastructure improvements (which, in each case, could tie into federal spending).

You can see references in Otter's speech in the post below. But consider what Kulongoski had to say - it was a short speech and the key sentences jump out:

"What do we have to do to restore prosperity and lay the groundwork for a future where our children are the best educated in America, our environmental leadership is unquestioned in America, and our economy stands ready to take full advantage of the green industrial and energy revolution that is stirring in America. . . . The ground on which – together – we will build a budget for the next biennium has shifted. But the pillars of that budget – children, education, health care, renewable energy, green technology, and transportation – cannot be shaken. . . .

"If we’re going to turn unemployment checks into paychecks, the state must invest in our human infrastructure. My top priority for this upcoming biennium remains education – because only by creating the best trained, best skilled, best educated workforce in America will we be able to create the employment opportunities that are this state’s future. I’ve been saying for months that the way to turn despair into hope, and uncertainty into prosperity, is to build a protective wall around funding for education.

"The time has come to rise to that challenge – and to accept the moral responsibility of making sure that every Oregon child from birth to age 19 has health insurance. Yes – that means finding the political courage to raise revenue. What are we afraid of? These are our children! . . . We’re also going to have to innovate, educate, and invest! That means more research and development into energy efficiency and conservation. Creating a larger science infrastructure that will attract and train scientists and engineers. And making sure Oregon businesses have the opportunity to generate a critical mass of brainpower, financial power, and marketing power. When it comes to fighting climate change, recently I’ve been hearing a chorus of naysayers singing a three-part harmony of – too costly, too burdensome, and too soon. But this chorus is out of tune – and out of touch – with Oregon’s future."

Slice and cut

Butch Otter

C.L. "Butch" Otter

C.L. "Butch" Otter, Idaho's governor, has long been a cut-taxes-less-government kinda guy, but some of his recent statements suggested that he might try to find ways in the next year's state budget to avoid really massive, overwhelming cuts. And he may well have tried. But great big cuts are the hallmark of what he has proposed to the Idaho Legislature today.

Consider this slice from early in the speech:

The budget recommendation you received today includes a General Fund allocation for public schools that is about 5-and-one-third percent less than this year’s appropriation. However, the $1 billion, 425 million I’m proposing for K-through-12 education next year still represents almost half our total General Fund budget.

And the fact is that my proposed public schools budget is reduced FAR less than I’m recommending for other state agencies. For example, my General Fund budget proposal for Health and Welfare is down 71⁄2 percent. Higher education is down almost 10 percent; the departments of Correction and Water Resources each are down almost 12 percent. The Department of Agriculture recommendation is down more than 31 percent, Commerce more than 51 percent, and Parks and Recreation almost 56 percent.

He also declined to have any truck with the state's rainy day funds; there may be, he suggested, a lot of rainy days.

As conservative as the Idaho Legislature is, there may be some dispute about some of this.

From there, he spoke of Project 60, a broad-based effort to increase Idaho's economic output, "nurturing a new generation of entrepreneurial giants. We want to encourage and create a climate that enables visionaries like the Simplots, Albertsons and Morrisons of yesterday – and like the Parkinsons, Hagadones, Vandersloots and Sayers of our own generation – to create more jobs and brighter futures for Idaho families and communities." (more…)

On the radio

KLIX

A quick programming note: On Monday mornings during the legislative session, I'll be talking on KLIX-AM radio in Twin Falls. That started this morning at about 8:05 (Mountain), for 15 minutes or so, and the plan is to continue that till the legislators go home.

Talked this morning on the budget mess, the challenges Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and the legislature have (though they seem to coming closer to facing them together) and related subjects. Podcasts are available.

OR: Legislature ahead

statehouse

Are there any state governments not being crunched by economic downturn and diminished revenues? If there are, the Northwest's aren't among them - Oregon, Washington and Idaho have that situation in common. Oregon's legislature does have one advantage over the other two: Longer to work. Not until summer hit hot on the Salem pavement will Oregon's lawmakers call it quits. So they have a little more time to ponder, reflect, and consider. This doesn't always improve the lawmaking, but any sense of imminent panic may dissipate by then.

And the concern is running high. Said Representative Bob Jensen, R-Pendleton: “It’s the worst budget prognosis we’ve had since 1930.”

The challenges may be a little different. For the better part of a couple of decades, the governing responsibility in Salem have been split between the parties, at least to some degree; even last term, Republicans held enough seats in the House to block an array of fiscal proposals if they chose. This year, Democrats have full effective control, and also full effective responsibility for whatever happens. A certain giddiness at the prospect of pushing through all sorts of ideas is understandable, but caution will have to be part of the mix too. The voters who make can take as easily.

Some of what they'll be facing may be easy and even popular. Governor Ted Kulongoski has, for example, a number of proposals which would "green" the state and also encourage green business, and some of these may run through quickly. But legislators will need to step carefully. The shape of economic assistance (what about the resource industries? what about home sales?) will have to be hashed out. Kulongoski's proposal for a state mileage tax has taken a lot of heat and probably will go down in flames; if it doesn't, the political fallout will be fierce.

In common with Washington, Oregon has had a big budget runup in the last couple of years, and that may give some indication of where cuts can be found. But only to a point. There's going to be little appetite for cutting back on children's health care, or on the recent increase in state police, finally beginning to approach numbers that suggest adequacy.

There are no simple answers here. (more…)