The Joint Committee on Ways and Means on Friday will hold the first of seven town halls to solicit opinions from around the state on the 2017-19 state budget. The first meeting will be on February 10, at the Oregon State Capitol from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Hearing Room F.
The co-chairs of the committee last month presented their proposed budget, which includes cuts to several service areas because anticipated revenues fall $1.8 billion short of what will be needed to maintain current services. To see that proposal, click here.
These hearings offer a great opportunity for Associated Oregon Industries (AOI) members to tell Legislators that they must curb Oregon's rapidly rising Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) costs and high government employee health care costs before making cuts to education, health care and other essential services for Oregonians.
If you'd like to testify at a hearing, consider these facts. Bear in mind that short, succinct testimony is best.
- The State has $1.2 billion dollars more to spend this budget cycle than it did last budget. The $1.8 billion deficit being discussed is due to government costs that are increasing faster than the additional revenue.
- Since the end of the Great Recession, Oregon revenues have grown faster than almost every state in the nation. Oregon's state tax revenues are at an all-time high.
- One of the biggest cost-drivers for this and future budgets is the PERS, which diverts money away from Oregon's classrooms and other services.
- The increased cost of PERS for school districts in the upcoming budget is the equivalent of paying for one week of school statewide or 1,358 teachers; over the next three budgets and jumps to three weeks of school or 3,750 teachers.
- Oregon is the only state in the country where public employees pay nothing for their pensions, which are fully paid by the taxpayers.
- While PERS pension costs are skyrocketing, the PERS system continues to operate a second, 401K-style retirement savings plan in addition to the pension plan. Taxpayers should not be required to pay for two retirement plans, when the pension plan alone is bankrupting our state.
- If Oregon taxpayers' contributions to government employee health plan premiums were at the U.S. average, the state could save hundreds of millions of dollars per budget cycle to invest in schools and other services.
If you plan to testify, let Engage Oregon know by clicking here.
Please note that you will need to arrive at the location in advance in order to sign up to speak. We suggest arriving an hour early.
You also can send your input to Ways and Means committee members at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a list of the other town halls that are scheduled:
Saturday, February 11 - Portland
Noon to 2 p.m.
Main Mall, Amo DeBernardis CC Building
PCC, Sylvania campus
12000 SW 49th Ave, Portland
Friday, February 17 - Hermiston
5 to 7 p.m.
Hermiston High School
600 S 1st St, Hermiston
Saturday, February 18 - Madras
1 to 3 p.m.
Performing Arts Center
Madras High School
390 SE 10th St, Madras
Friday, February 24 - Ashland
5 to 7 p.m.
Rogue River Room
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland
Saturday, February 25 - Eugene
1 to 3 p.m.
Rooms 308-309 Building 17 (The Forum)
Lane Community College
4000 E 30th Ave, Eugene
Friday, March 3 - Tillamook
6 to 8 p.m.
Port of Tillamook Bay
6825 Officers Row, Tillamook