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Oregon Budget Writers Warn Of Cuts To Health Care, Education

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

Budget writers at the Oregon Legislature are warning of deep cuts to health care and education. The Democrats in charge of putting together a two-year spending plan released a list of potential cuts Monday.

Among them: 350,000 Oregonians would lose their government-funded health care as the expansion under the Affordable Care Act is rolled back entirely. The cuts would also lead to larger class sizes and staff reductions in Oregon schools.

Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek said the rundown of possible cuts should serve as a wake-up call.

"Oregonians are going to see things that they care about on those lists,” she said. “And without new revenue, we don't have a lot of options."

Kotek said talks continue on several proposals to increase taxes on hospitals and other businesses. The final budget numbers will also depend on the next revenue forecast, which will come out in mid-May.

The list drew immediate criticism from some interest groups. Jim Green, the director of the Oregon School Boards Association, called the proposed cuts unacceptable.

"We need to change the conversation, right now," he said. "Our state’s economy is booming, and our children should be the beneficiaries of that, not the victims.”

A spokesman for the Senate Republican caucus issued a statement accusing Democrats of giving Oregonians a "false choice." Jonathan Lockwood said the list "is designed to intimidate us all into accepting higher taxes or suffering these unacceptable cuts.”

Copyright 2017 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.