Fresh off of her Nov. 6 re-election win, Governor Kate Brown has released her 2019-21 budget proposal. The budget totals $23.6 billion, a “12.4 percent increase from the current two-year budget,” according to The Oregonian.
This plan proposes a $2 billion tax increase to better fund K-12 education in Oregon. This increased funding is likely intended to improve conditions caused by underfunding, as displayed by data showing that “the Oregon State Legislature has consistently financed schools at about 21 to 38 percent below what its own research suggested districts needed to be successful,” reported the Statesman Journal. These funds would be used to pay for a longer K-12 school year, as well as smaller class sizes for grades K-3.
Funding for higher education would not change, but this lack of an increase would result in an effective cut, due to the rising costs of higher education. Holding tuition increases below five percent would require an additional $220 million, funding that the governor has declined to support unless lawmakers are able to provide the aforementioned $2 billion in new tax revenue, all according to the budget proposal.
“Oregon’s education system was once a point of pride for Oregonians across the state, a promise that our children would receive a world-class education and have the opportunity to achieve their dreams,” Brown said in a quote shared by the Statesman Journal. “But for Oregon students to experience this again, we must work together to make a commitment to our schools that our children deserve.”
While 2017 saw Oregon’s high school graduation rate increase by two percent, to 77 percent, it has not yet reached the national average. “Oregon regularly has one of the nation’s lowest graduation rates,” stated U.S. News & World Report, “and the uptick still leaves it below the most recently available national average of 84 percent.” Brown’s proposed tax increase aims to combat this low graduation rate among other improvements, such as an expansion of career and technical education in high schools.
In addition to Brown’s focus on increased education funding, she also hopes to allocate $200 million for state employee pay raises, and to pay for employee health insurance cost increases, according to the proposal.
Brown has not specified where she expects the additional $2 billion to come from, relying on lawmakers to find ways to raise the needed funds. The governor has stated her intentions to raise taxes on tobacco, but there is one tax increase that has received less coverage. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that the budget proposal includes the intention to “raise the markup on Oregon liquor sales by five percent beginning July 2019,” which is expected to bring in $21.2 million.
Gov. Brown’s budget proposal is currently just that: a proposal. The legislature must now finalize a budget, and time will tell if Brown’s plans for a tax increase and additional education funding come to fruition.