CORONAVIRUS, Government, Salem

Governor Brown calls for special legislative session to address budget shortfall

The Oregon Capitol building in Salem. Photo: Chas Hundley

SALEM – COVID-19 blew a hole in Oregon’s budget nearly $1 billion wide, and the task of rebalancing the budget now will fall to Oregon’s lawmakers in a special session of the Oregon Legislature convening Monday, August 10 at 8 a.m.

Brown had said earlier that the session would eventually be set for August.

In a press release issued by Governor Kate Brown’s office on the afternoon of Friday, July 31, Brown noted that the session — the legislature’s second special session of the year, and third session overall in 2020 — has been called to address that budgetary shortfall, but that she also supports additional legislation to build on work done to address police accountability reforms in the first special session held June 24 through 26. 

“This crisis has impacted all of us—Oregon families, businesses, non-profits, and local governments have all had to cut costs. The State of Oregon has been tightening its belt as well. With a nearly $1 billion budget deficit in the current biennium, there is more work to do,” Brown said. 

“These decisions will not be easy. 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 biennium. Putting off tough decisions this summer will only leave us with impossible choices next January.

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“Unlike the federal government, Oregon must balance our state budget. State and local governments have been left reeling from the economic downturn. For months, we have waited for Congress to take action, and it is still my hope that they will include aid for states and local governments in the coronavirus relief package currently being negotiated.

“We need to preserve critical services like health care, education, and senior services during this pandemic. 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. I would like to thank legislators for beginning this work already, and I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and crafting an updated budget that serves all Oregonians.”

Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod (R-Stayton) issued a statement following Brown’s announcement.

“Senate Republicans have been willing to work on the budget since before the governor called the first special session earlier this summer. 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,” he said.

“Policy bills should be off the table. The focus should be on the budget.”

According to the governor’s press release, Brown has proposed $150 million in General Fund savings for the current biennium. The release also noted that state agencies have reduced spending, delayed new programs, halted non-essential travel, and frozen hiring for unfilled positions. 

Brown noted her constitutional powers in calling for a special session under article V, section 12 of Oregon’s state constitution.

Article V of the state constitution outlines the duties and powers of the executive branch. 

Article V Section 12 reads “He may on extraordinary occasions convene the Legislative Assembly by proclamation, and shall state to both houses when assembled, the purpose for which they shall have been convened.”

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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