Most Oregonians think that our state government is short of money, billions of dollars short. Legislators are faced with cutting programs and raising taxes as they struggle to close a $4 billion hole in the General Fund budget.
What most Oregonians don’t know is that the General Fund is only about one third of all the money Oregon state government spends.
Thanks to a Sunday front-page Oregonian article, we now have the rest of the story. While legislators may be over $4 billion short of the $17 billion they think they need to maintain services like education in the General Fund, they also expect the All Funds budget to grow by eight percent, to a total of $54 billion.
The All Funds budget includes the state income taxes that comprise most of the General Fund, federal money and “a huge array of fees ranging from college tuition to state gas taxes.” It’s been growing faster than inflation and population growth since at least 1985.
Federal stimulus money apparently will fuel much of the All Funds budget increase, but even without such federal largess the budget isn’t expected to decline. Granted, much of this money is dedicated to specific programs, but Oregonians still deserve to know why their legislators haven’t told them the reason for cutting public school budgets, for example, when the total dollars they have to spend are increasing.