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Time to speak out about the state budget

PENDLETON, Oregon – The budget being proposed for the state of Oregon in the next biennium is getting some tough criticism. Area residents will have a chance to voice their opinions and ask questions at a public hearing today at Blue Mountain Community College held by the Oregon Legislature Joint Ways and Means Committee.

The $23 billion general fund budget is 3.2 percent lower than current spending levels. Lawmakers who created it say it’s realistic based on the state’s current revenue. The top priorities are funding for K-12 education and the Oregon Health Plan. While there are continuing discussions on how to raise revenue, nothing is being officially proposed yet.

As things stand now, the Oregon Education Association says the budget will result in teacher layoffs. Meanwhile, leaders in higher education believe it will cause across-the-board major tuition increases at state universities and colleges.

The Joint Ways and Means Committee is holding a series of public hearings at various locations in the state to hear what the public wants. Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) sits on the 21-member panel, and its vice co-chair is Rep. Greg Smith of Heppner.

Today’s hearing is at the Bob Clapp Theatre in Pioneer Hall on the Blue Mountain Community College campus in Pendleton. The gathering lasts from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and those who wish to be heard can register at the beginning.

The budget proposed by the committee’s co-chairs can be found at https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/lfo/Documents/2019-21%20Co-Chair%20Balanced%20Budget.pdf. The governor’s proposed budget is at https://www.oregon.gov/das/Financial/Documents/2019-21_gb.pdf.

Those who wish to submit written comments can email waysandmeans.budget@oregonlegislature.gov. Those comments will become part of the public record.

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