End of Session Newsletter - Budget Recap

Richard Devlin

End of Session Newsletter - Budget Recap

email: Sen.RichardDevlin@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1719
address: 900 Court St NE, S-213, Salem, OR, 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/devlin

This is the first of two newsletters I am sending out as post-legislative session reflections.

The 2017 Legislative Session has now concluded, and I would like to share some of my reflections from the 6+ month process. Despite a backdrop of a $1.4-1.8 billion dollar deficit, the Legislature passed a balanced budget and passed a number of important bills that will impact Oregonians across the state. Whether you are interested in healthcare, transportation, education, economic development, or our state's natural resources (or all of the above!) we have worked collaboratively to move Oregon forward. 

2017 Budget: Difficult to Balance, Difficult to Understand, Better than Expected

Your Oregon Legislature has one primary responsibility…to produce a balanced budget. As the Senate Co-Chair of Joint Ways and Means Committee (the Appropriations Committee) I take that responsibility very seriously as do the other 22 legislators who serve on the Full Committee and the additional 26 legislators who fill some of the positions on the committee’s seven subcommittees.

In a very real way the committee does not just approve a budget, but they develop the budget for the coming biennium. In fact they don’t produce one budget, but 72 separate budgets, one for each state agency. In addition to those budgets there are capital construction budgets, bills to re-balance the existing budget and miscellaneous bills that are necessary to ensure the state has a balanced budget. In fact it takes approximately 90 bills to pass through the subcommittees, full committee and the House and Senate to produce a balanced budget.

In some ways the budget has become so complex it is hard to communicate the budget realities that the state faces in providing critical services. In particular most of the discussion is on the general fund / lottery fund budget; however we spend more in federal funds than the combined general / lottery fund budget.

When we began crafting a ‘17-‘19 Budget for the state last year we faced a General Fund deficit of $1.4 billion dollars that grew to approximately $1.8 billion dollars with the passage of Ballot Measures 96, 98 and 99. 

We were able to balance the budget through:

  • Modest growth in revenue forecasts;
  • Increased revenue from marijuana sales;
  • Various health care provider taxes that were necessary to keep the expanded Affordable Care Act population and keep $5.2 billion dollars in federal funds flowing to those providers;
  • Various short term and long term cost containment measures;
  • Targeted reductions in some programs;
  • And numerous other actions necessary to balance the budget.

While I take personal pride in the good work of all the members of my committee and the legislative fiscal staff who work incredibly long hours, I wish there was more recognition for them for the following accomplishments we produced. 

  • A balanced budget that few thought could be produced as we faced a $1.4 billion – and growing – shortfall.
  • An $8.2 billion State School Fund, $800 million more than the last biennium and almost $200 million greater than current service level.
  • A $170 million investment in Career Technical Education and efforts to improve graduation rates. 
  • Significant increases in funding for our universities, which will help reduce the rising cost in tuition.
  • Healthcare and Human Services were funded at levels that few foresaw as possible at the beginning of the session. The state’s portion of the Affordable Care Act was fully funded; there were meaningful improvements and investments in child welfare programs and affordable housing.
  • In public safety, critical programs were adequately funded and there were meaningful investments in our State Police and in efforts to reduce the future incidence of crime in our state and communities.

I hope this has provided some insight into the positives that were the products of the 2017 Session.

Putting together a state’s budget is a complex process with many moving parts. I would again thank the committee members, legislative staff, advocates, and citizens who are all contributed to the process. 

Please feel free to reach out with any questions. 


Senator Richard Devlin

P.S. Next week I will send out my comments on some of the policy accomplishments we achieved this year. Stay tuned!