Second round of Oregon budget cutting will begin soon

PORTLAND — Oregon state agencies have turned in their ideas for a second round of budget cuts in 2010, but it may not be clear for months exactly who and what will be slashed.

The proposals sent to Gov. Ted Kulongoski Thursday included, for the second time, proposals to close prisons, something that the governor and legislative leaders have pledged won't happen.

Largely on the strength of a recent infusion of federal aid, the Democrats in charge of state government say they'll stave off cuts in major areas of the budget.

School aid, they say, won't suffer further harm. This summer, school organizations estimate, budget cuts cost the state about 1,000 teaching positions — though attrition kept the actual number of layoffs below that number.

Estimates of state revenue have been ratcheted down nine times in about two years. In May, officials said the state was $577 million short, in August $377 million more. In all, the state is down about $1 for every $14 it planned to spend when the Legislature wrote the current budget in the spring of 2009.

What won't survive the August shortfall may not be apparent until well after the November elections, when the Legislature holds its next session.

"One step at a time," House Speaker Dave Hunt said in a statement Thursday. "We continue a methodical, responsible, and bipartisan approach to preventing cuts that will severely harm Oregon's future.

The governor and the Democratic leaders say that about $260 million in aid the Congress approved in the summer is expected to bolster the school and human services budgets.

In addition, the legislators have reserves and emergency funds that top $180 million, but a large share of that can't be spent until the Legislature is in session. An emergency panel of legislative budget writers will meet next week and in December to plug some budget gaps.

One is at the Oregon Youth Authority, which has announced plans to lay off about 200 workers and set free about 300 young offenders.

Hunt and Senate President Peter Courtney said Thursday the authority would be in line for part of $7 million in emergency funds. District attorneys and the State Police will also get a share, they said.

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