Don’t depend on Uncle Sam

Rep. Sal Esquivel

Rep. Sal Esquivel

The Legislature adjourned on Monday, and the days since then have given me the chance to reflect on the session.

One of the largest budgets we passed was for the Oregon Health Authority. This new agency was created to take up some of the duties that had been traditionally assumed by the Department of Human Services.

OHA has a $15 billion budget, with a 22 percent increase in the next two years totaling $2.7 billion. But OHA already knows it will have a $1 billion shortfall in 2015 and an additional $1.5 billion in 2017.

The agency’s budgetary projections are based on the assumption that the federal government will provide some of the funding.

I tend to question the wisdom of relying on federal funding to prop up our critical programs. Those of us in rural counties know the folly of doing so, as our counties face unprecedented funding crises due to bad federal policies. Much of the land in our rural counties is owned by the federal government, and was used to harvest timber for decades, with the revenues being used to fund county governments. But the safety net put in place to make up for logging restrictions has vanished, leaving our counties high and dry.

Relying on the federal government to keep its promises is bad public policy. We should learn from this example, instead of going out of our way to repeat the same mistake.

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