900 Court Street NE, S-307
July 9, 2009
The state instead, according to figures compiled by Sen.
"We're not doing any kind of pull back in government spending," George said.
According to George, the perception that lawmakers were cutting budgets simply isn't true.
"We're misleading the public," he said.
Lawmakers this session regularly referred to a $4 billion "budget hole," the difference between the governor's proposed $54 billion budget and estimated revenues.
In reality, he said, the state spent $49.1 billion in the 2007-09 biennium and lawmakers have adopted a $53.7 billion budget for the current biennium.
"The public doesn't recognize what is going on with the budget," he said. "(Legislators) keep talking about a $4 billion hole, but we spent about $4.5 billion more than last time."
The Legislature increased spending in some areas and reduced spending in others.
Not since 1983 have lawmakers actually reduced overall spending in the state's budget, according to George's figures. Since then the state has increased spending an average of 14.3 percent per biennium.
The data, unveiled June 26 by George, shows lawmakers increased spending in three of the state's four revenue categories - general funds, other funds and federal funds.
Only in lottery funds - where the budget reduces spending from $1.16 billion in 2007-09 to $1.13 billion in 2009-11 - are lawmakers proposing to spend less.
"We're having significant increases when we should be tightening our belts," George said. "I would say we're spending like drunken sailors, but that would be an insult to drunken sailors."
Particularly disturbing in the budget that emerged last week, George said, is the dramatic increase in other-fund spending.
"The way we're raising revenues is through fees," George said. "So all the farmers and ranchers are paying more in fees, which the government doesn't call taxes."
Lawmakers also this session increased income taxes for the state's wealthiest individuals and boosted corporate taxes - a plan that could backfire in January when the increases are expected to be put before voters.
"Somewhere along the line there has got to be some justification for spending more money when the private sector is struggling," said Barry Bushue, president of the Oregon Farm Bureau. "From my perspective, I haven't heard many good answers for why they've done that."
A closer look at the data that George compiled in consultation with Sen. Chris Telfer, R-Bend, shows general fund revenue - a fund supplied by income taxes - will increase from $13.2 billion to $13.4 billion.
Other-fund revenue - supplied primarily by fees - is increasing from $25.1 billion to $27.8 billion.
Federal-fund revenue - which includes stimulus money - is increasing from $9.7 billion to $11.4 billion.
Overall, the data shows the state will spend 9.38 percent more than it spent in 2007-09. Other-fund expenditures will increase 11 percent.
One problem lawmakers and agency heads have in developing budgets, George and Telfer said, is agency officials don't know their budgets.
"I'm not sure the agencies know what they're spending, because they can't give us the same answers (as the state treasurer)," said Telfer, who is a certified public accountant.
"There was almost a 20 percent difference between what the agencies told us as far as their ending fund balances and what the state treasurer reported to us," George said.
One outcome from the six-month effort to compile the data - which depicts state budgets dating back to 1941 - is George and Telfer came to believe the state needs to change the way it manages its funds.
"No legislator has a grip on the budget, because there's no way to get that information," George said.
"We need to develop a budgeting process that is holistic, transparent and accountable," he said, "so you can really tell citizens what it's costing to provide services to Oregonians."