Oregon finds $150 million


Oregon will have $150 million more to spend over the next two years than previously forecast, state economists said Tuesday.

The extra money will be divided among universities, community colleges, public safety and reserve funds, legislators said.

"The big winner today is higher education," state Sen. Ryan Deckert, D-Beaverton, said. "Amazingly, they played it just right. They are going to do better than even the governor's budget."

Overall, the state will have about $15.4 billion to spend in the 2007-2009 budget cycle, fueled by stronger than expected personal income tax collections and lottery funds.

The new money also puts a damper on talk of increasing the minimum tax charged to corporations, set at $10 in 1931 and unchanged since.

Businesses had suspected that Democratic budget-writers had lowballed the funding for community college and universities in order to put pressure on the talks over the corporate minimum, but the extra money now defuses that impetus, all sides agreed.

Tuesday's forecast also provided an updated look at Oregon's unique personal kicker, money that's returned to taxpayers when budget revenues exceed forecasts by more than 2 percent.

Oregonians will receive about $1.164 billion in kicker checks next November, state economist Michael Kennedy said, the first time in years the state's residents will have received a kicker check. The median refund will be $285.

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