Two Year Budget Quiz

Jeff Alworth

1.  If the legislature adopts the biennial budget proposed by Governor Kulongoski, it will total:

a) $13 billion
b) $14 billion
c) $15 billion
d) $16 billion

2.  The total budget would be an increase of how much over the 05-07 budget?

a) 12%
b) 16%
c) 20%
d) 24%

3.  The total, adjusting for interest inflation, would be a record?

a) True
b) False

4.  The moral of this quiz is?

a) Democrats obviously can't be trusted with your money.
b) A billion here and a billion there and you're talking real money.
c) The days of nutty ideologues holding the budget hostage are over.

Answers below the jump.

1 - C, $15 billion
2 - C, 20%
3 - B, false; adjusted for inflation, the legislature budgeted more in 01-03.
4 - C; although I believe this to be true, this answer is your cue to...


  • (Show?)

    "interest"? You mean, inflation?

  • (Show?)

    Any hardworking journalism students out there want some nice copy-editing experience?

    Yeah, that's what I mean. I have corrected it in the text...

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    A billion here, a billion there - it doesn't mean anything to people around town.

    We really should talk about service levels. Are there more or less Case Workers per capita for Childrens Services, Senior Services, etc. than before? When were these services at a peak? Does the budget bring real relief to these stressed out over worked folks?

    Per capita, how many Oregonians are in prisons now, 20 years ago, etc. -- Does expensive jailing of people really work? Do alternative programs really work? Is the degree of results linking to prison alternative programs depend upon their per capita funding levels? Where are we now with this, where have we been?

    Will there be more or less potholes in the street I drive upon?

    Will there be more or less State Police to get the crazy people off the roads? (you know, the ones talking into cell phones that drive everyone else off of the road.)

    Will our State Parks get better maintenance?

    Oh, and how many kids will be in that first grade class next year?

    --- Billions and Billions - or - talk about real things like services?

  • Bert S. (unverified)

    Note: I'll now sign as Bert S. so I don't get confused with Bert L.

    1) To echo Steve, putting some per capita information would prevent misunderstanding among tax payers.

    As for the last question, I wonder what chunk of the increase goes to cover rapidly rising health insurance costs?

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    I like what Steve B. has to say above.

    Asking "what should we be doing to keep Oregon a great state?" should be the first question. Only after that question is answered can we answer the follow-up question of "what will it cost?". And then we can try to figure out "where do we get the money?". Answering the questions in any other order can lead to inadequate budgets on the one hand, or to waste on the other hand.

    I know my approach is idealistic and probably unrealistic, but it would be nice to see at least a few issues receive this treatment by the Dem controlled legislature.

  • (Show?)

    --- Billions and Billions - or - talk about real things like services?

    Not to inject anything so crass as money into a high-minded discussion, but caseworkers and state sheriffs are expensive. I find it slightly depressing that liberals are unwilling to take a cold look at this--because conservatives love to demonize public price tags. If everyone's demonizing money, how do we pay for the caseworkers?

    I recall that during that 03 budget cycle, when we cut funds, people literally died: mentally ill people were denied treatment, the elderly were turned out of assisted living facilities, and inmates were turned out onto the street. I do research connected to the state child welfare agency and for caseworkers doing their job, money ain't crass at all--it's the bottom line.

  • Anon (unverified)

    While I agree that liberals should be discussing "the bottom line," I also think that Steve's point about how it is useless to talk about the state budget in real terms is a good one. It is always better to put large numbers in context, rather than simply talk about "a billion here and a billion there." The $15 billion figure alone is totally uninformative. The $15 billion only becomes meaningful when its relationship to the 01-03 budget is discribed. Then we see that it represents a mere 20 percent increase that (partially) restores previous cuts to vital services. Conservitives excel at convincing voters that government waste is rampant by talking about large numbers without any context. When liberals talk about the bottom line it is important that we do so in meaninful terms.

  • JTT (unverified)

    It would be best if people (kudos anon) started talking about the '07-09 budget in terms of finally being able to restore some of the drastic/dramatic/draconian cuts that were made to schools, health care, police, etc. during the last recession. We're not adding or increasing we're restoring.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Jeff, just a minor (since we're throwing around billions of dollars here anyhow) nit to pick:

    The $15B figure that you reference is the General Fund budget, not the "total budget" as you described it.

    Per the Oregon web site numbers provided for "All Funds", total budgeted Expenditures for 2007-2009 are actually a little over $49 billion, not $15 billion.

    And total budgeted "Resources" (including apparently a huge beginning balance for Federal and "other" funds) come out at just a hair over $128 billion.

    It's particularly interesting to review the differences in expenditures listed under General Fund, versus All Funds, and try to piece together who pays for what and how.

    Per the glossary link on that page, "Other Funds" for example is money that comes in from other than the General Fund or Federal Funds. Mostly license and user fees (a tax by any other name would cost as much...), which are earmarked for specific purposes. And it's more than DOUBLE the size of the General Fund.

    That may be good, bad, or indifferent... but my point is that the amount of money under the direct control (if not necessarily the discretion) of the state is a great deal more than that $15B figure. There's a lot more revenue -- and a lot more expenditure -- than the General Fund alone would indicate.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    David W. makes the point that the budget is larger than the $15 billion in the general fund, but then takes the leap of saying that this is "under the control" of the legislature.

    Not true. For instance. I am a real estate Appraiser. I pay several hundred dollars a year to the State Appraiser Certification and Licensure Board as a license fee. That Board while under the umbrella of the State, is independent. Our license fees, and the penalties paid by those that violate appraisal regulations, are the only source of revenue for the staff of the Board. In other words this Board is totally self-sufficient - but our little budget is rolled into that large fund outside of the General Fund. The legislature has no control over that budget, NOR SHOULD THEY!

    Federal money is the largest part of the funds outside of the General Fund. But those funds all come with directives on how it is to be spent. Again, there is no legislative control other than to monitor the agencies involved to insure that it is well spent (e.g. accountability). We can't take Federal alcohol and drug money and spend it on Interstate Highways and we can't take Federal hospital funds and spend it on State Parks.

    Part of the problem with our State is that we don't get good media exposure as to the actual workings of the State budget. The better informed the public is, the better will be the decisions made in Salem about the budget.

    Jeff - my point was not that the billions and billions are not important, rather that for the average fellow around town it makes no sense. But when we talk about potholes or grandma in the nursing home, it then can make sense. I did not and do not pose an either/or, but rather that we all need to make the budget make sense to people in terms that can be understood.

  • David Wright (unverified)


    My point was not that the legislature has discretion over those funds (as I acknowledged). I said that they are under the control of the state. By that I mean that the money comes in to the state, and the state spends that money.

    You are correct that we can't take alcohol and drug money and spend it on highways -- but we are spending that money on alcohol and drug programs. We can't take federal hospital funds and spend it on state parks -- but we are spending that money on hospitals. And, as you know, we are spending money outside of the General Fund on highways and state parks, too.

    Also, while various revenue sources are earmarked for specific types of spending, surely the state (via its various executive departments) has some discretion over how the money is spent within those categories (which potholes will be fixed, if you will). While the legislature may not control the very specific allocation of those funds, do you suppose your average fellow about town particularly cares whether it was the legislature or ODOT that is responsible for not fixing the potholes on his street? Of course, if he's literally "about town" his street probably isn't maintained by the state in the first place, but you see my point. ;-)

    <h2>It seems reasonable to me that when considering what the state's discretionary spending level (and priorities) should be, we need to place it in context of the already-earmarked monies that will be spent on various programs. I'm not trying to say that $15B is too much, or too little, for the General Fund budget -- just that it's not even close to the whole picture of what the state spends.</h2>

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