Toward A Budget That Addresses Racial Disparities and Creates Opportunity for All

Chuck Sheketoff

It’s no secret that racial disparities remain in our nation and state.

Consider poverty. In Oregon, the poverty rate for most communities of color exceeds the rate for whites. And not just by a little.

Facing Race: the 2013 Oregon Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity brings attention to racial disparities in Oregon. The report is a collaborative effort spearheaded by a “Working Group” comprised of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon, Causa Oregon, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Partnership for Safety and Justice, Urban League of Portland and Western States Center.

OCPP is proud to have served on the report’s Advisory Committee and contributed to the report’s budget analysis.

Not surprisingly, media coverage on the report has focused mostly on the grades the Working Group issued to individual lawmakers.

Oregonians, though, ought to read the full report and give particular attention to Facing Race’s call on lawmakers to take into account, and address the root causes of, racial disparities when putting together the state budget. Budgets, the report reminds us, are moral documents, revealing “whether our values of fairness and justice actually manifest in our financial decision-making.”

So how should lawmakers approach their work in putting together a budget for the state?

Facing Race puts forth the following principles:

  1. INVEST WISELY FOR THE LONG RUN. While addressing short-term difficulties, we must remember our decisions will impact communities for years to come. Even in tough times, it’s important to invest in the future. We cannot undermine the core infrastructure—access to education, investments in children and families—that ensures opportunities to thrive. Trimming or dismantling our core public infrastructure and services will create new economic and social costs and deepen existing disparities.

  2. STRIVE FOR TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND INCLUSIVITY IN THE BUDGET PROCESS. With new structures and guidelines in place, the process for making our state’s budget priorities has changed. Be sure to reach out to organizations and communities of color to ensure the Oregonians most impacted by budget decisions have a voice in the process.

  3. LOOK FOR ADEQUATE RESOURCES. We cannot cut our way out of these economic hard times. We will need to look for new sources of revenue to support the state’s resources. Raising revenue in a way that is equitable and does not disproportionately burden those with the lowest incomes is needed. We must close tax loopholes and ensure businesses pay their fair share. We must also look at the taxes paid by top income earners.

A budget built on these principles would not just address racial disparities. It would also advance opportunity for all Oregonians.


Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at www.ocpp.org.

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