The Oregon State Capitol. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)
Oregon lawmakers have been tasked with plugging a $1 billion hole in the state’s budget in a special legislative session that’ll convene Monday, Aug. 10.
This will be the second special session called by Gov. Kate Brown this year. In June, the Legislature met to consider coronavirus pandemic and police accountability measures. This time, the focus will be on adjusting the state’s two-year budget to account for a dramatic drop in revenue caused by the pandemic.
“These decisions will not be easy,” said Brown in a statement Friday announcing the session. “Oregon has been smart with our reserves and saved for a rainy day, preparing us to weather this economic storm. But if we use too much of our savings now, then we’ll be stuck with an even bigger budget gap for the next (budget cycle).”
In the statement, Brown said that putting off hard choices “will only leave us with impossible choices” when the Legislature convenes in January for its regular long session where the next two-year budget will be written.
Congress is currently considering another coronavirus relief package. But it’s fate has been unclear as members of Congress argue over its size and scope. In the statement, Brown said that she still hoped that Congress would come through with relief for state and local governments.
“We need to preserve critical services like health care, education, and senior services during this pandemic,” said Brown. “And, we must do more to address the disparities in state support for Oregon’s underserved communities, particularly our Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and other communities of color.”
Brown has also called for using the special session to continue work on police accountability reforms begun in the first session.
Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod, R-Stayton, responded with a statement that indicated he had little appetite for working on issues beyond the budget.
“Senate Republicans have been willing to work on the budget since before the governor called the first special session earlier this summer,” he said. “If we diverge from the stated purpose of addressing the budget, this second special session will make a mockery of the legislative process yet again.”
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Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.