SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown will call lawmakers back to the Capitol beginning Aug. 10 to try to fill a billion-dollar budget hole due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“This crisis has impacted all of us—Oregon families, businesses, non-profits, and local governments have all had to cut costs,” Brown said in a statement Friday afternoon announcing the planned return of legislators.
Business closures have caused tax revenues to plunge and legislators need to deal with a more than $1 billion budget deficit for the current two-year spending plan.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that under a framework released earlier this month, dealing with that shortfall could involve closing two state prisons.
Also, a special committee charged with looking into police reforms following the killing of George Floyd has been working on measures that could bolster limits on tear gas and chokeholds and change the system by which police discipline cases are settled.
Brown says she has already proposed $150 million in general fund savings for this current spending period.
Republican leaders urged Brown and Democrats, who hold strong majorities in the House and Senate, to focus on the budget during the special session.
“Policy bills should be off the table," Sen. Republican Leader Fred Girod, R- Stayton, said in a statement.
Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem, also said attention must be paid to addressing the huge budget issues.
“Covid-19 upended our economy and put state services at risk,” Courtney said. “We have another long session coming in January. Now is the time for the budget.”
In mid-July legislative budget leaders said they would try to protect critical spending on public education, healthcare and child welfare and maintain funding for Oregon State Police and fighting wildfires. Ideas floated last month include a mix of nearly $400 million in cuts and administrative savings and pulling another $400 million from a state reserve fund for schools.
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