The Oregon Senate has passed a $7.26 billion education budget despite arguments by Republicans who feel that the budget should have reached at least $7.5 billion in order for schools to receive the resources they need.
Democrats contend that the amount agreed upon is the most the state can afford without making substantial cuts to other budgets. The number would allow school districts to create their local budgets and allow for all-day kindergarten programs in every district.
They went on to say the money was meant to be a “floor,” and the hope was to add more money after the announcement of the revenue forecast in May.
Meanwhile, Republicans were less than enthused about the decision, writes Hannah Hoffman for The Statesman Journal.
“Our kids deserve better than this,” said Sen. Jeff Kruse. “I’m not seeing any of that here, and I probably shouldn’t have expected to see it because I know what the numbers are.”
In an effort to prevent the bill from passing, Republicans tried to move the bill to other committees, putting other bills onto the floor, and placing a number of visual aides into the room. None of the tactics worked.
Earlier this week, a plan to raise the budget to $7.5 billion was introduced by the Senate GOP. A number of Democrats said the plan was worth discussing later on in the session.
The plan involved three main ideas. State employee salaries would be frozen, which would save $129.7 million. Logging of state forests would increase, adding an additional $80 million per biennium for schools. Lastly, property tax subsidies in Washington County would be done away with, saving $95 million.
Sen. Chris Edwards said the state has an underlying problem with school funding, and that what needs to be done is to offer schools a budget to work with while also working to improve school funding on a permanent level.
He went on to say that in order to completely fix the problem, the state’s tax system would need a complete overhaul, and the economy would need to grow. Both parties need to accept responsibility for the solutions he presented.
“Democrats, you need to get serious about rural economic development. Our party has not done all that it could,” Edwards said. “Republicans, you need to get serious about revenue reform. I don’t think you guys have done all that you could.”
Meanwhile, the Legislative Fiscal Office released data that suggests the situation is not as bad as it seems. In the last decade, the state school fund has grown by 37%, above the inflation rate. The budget being put through this year is 9% higher than the budget for 2013-15.
The budget was passed last week by the House of Representatives and is on its way to Governor Kate Brown for final approval.