The challenging work of balancing the next budget has started. Southern Oregon is fortunate to have a strong delegation on the budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee. House Republicans in particular will be led by Committee Vice-Chair Dennis Richardson of Central Point, who was instrumental last term in funding state government without raising taxes. He also led efforts to set aside significant budgetary reserves that protected essential services throughout the previous biennium. Republicans will call for this same approach this session.
This term, however, the Legislature is under complete Democratic control. Another Southern Oregonian, Peter Buckley of Ashland, is now the chief House budget-writer. We look forward to working with him, but our priorities are clear. Republicans are focused on funding education first and bringing stability to Oregon’s finances. This includes passing long-term PERS reforms. Major PERS reform, as opposed to cosmetic changes, would allow us to redirect hundreds of millions into Oregon’s classrooms, allowing school districts to reduce class sizes and hire teachers.
It’s up to Democrats to lead, but it’s uncertain whether they’ll help us make the state’s pension system more fiscally sustainable. Already, there’s talk inside the Capitol about raising taxes on seniors, homeowners, small businesses and families saving for college. 2013 will be successful if Oregon continues down the road of reform. But it won’t be successful if we revert to kicking the can down the road, and the Legislature increases taxes and debt and makes it more difficult for Oregon businesses to create jobs.