The Office of Economic Analysis released its next-to-last Oregon revenue forecast for 2015-17 on May 16, predicting income will exceed projections made in 2015 by 2.4 percent and the state will have to return $407.8 million to taxpayers .
“The Legislature will have some tough choices to make given the recent forecast with the expected personal kicker,” said Lori Sattenspiel, OSBA interim director of legislative services. “Education needs to be a priority for the Legislature. No matter the final budget, they must make a minimum investment of $8.4 billion in K-12 education just to avoid losing ground.”
The forecast contained a few slices of good news for schools.
Corporate tax collections have also been above forecast, likely triggering a corporate kicker. Because of a 2012 measure, that kicker would send approximately $76 million to the State School Fund. Projections for the next biennium are up as well, putting the projected shortfall to maintain current services at $1.4 billion.
Democrats immediately responded to the economic news.
“Today’s positive economic and revenue forecast cannot hide the fact that Oregon has a long-term, structural budget imbalance,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland). “We need to chart a different path forward for our state. By reducing the cost of delivering services and reforming business taxes, we can stabilize Oregon’s budget, make strategic investments in education, and strengthen our economy in the long term.”
Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) said the revenue outlook does not change what he has characterized as the need for changes to the state's tax system, a sentiment echoed by Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland).
Republicans on the other hand were relatively quiet, with no immediate press releases. House Minority Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) called the forecast "more evidence that Oregon needs to tighten its belt and get serious about the unsustainable rate of spending in Salem."
The forecast sets up a political slugfest as the Legislature begins debating agency budgets. For schools, anything less than an $8.4 billion budget will trigger cuts in many districts. Those cuts will come by reducing staff, cutting days or cutting programs.
Advocacy for a K-12 budget number of $8.4 billion is essential. Please continue to email or call your legislator about the need for adequate funding and what less than $8.4 billion would do in your district.