‘Governor’s Budget’ really a group effort, involving many interests

There has been a lot of talk lately about the proposed governor’s budget. 

I have it sitting on my desk right now, a 1-inch bound book titled “2019-2020 Governor’s Budget.” The first page of this document is titled, “Turning Point, An Agenda for Oregon’s Future.”

While this is indeed a budget document, the greater purpose within the 467 pages is a blueprint of the governor’s agenda for the 2019-2020 biennium.  

There is an interesting fact that is often overlooked in the various articles and news reports. The governor does not write the budget! The legislature is constitutionally charged with building and passing the state’s budget. 

In fact, passing a balanced budget (not printing money) is one of the few clear expectations of the Oregon legislature. The state constitution does not require legislators to draft or pass laws. However, the constitution does require the legislature to pass a balanced budget. 

Yes, the governor signs or vetoes that budget, but the House and Senate decide where the money goes.  

The responsibility of building the budget rests with the Ways and Means Joint Committee. The fact that it is a “joint committee” indicates that the committee is made up of both House and Senate members.

This is typically the largest committee. Within the larger committees are smaller subcommittees, focused on specific policy areas. 

I have served as a co-chair of the Education Subgroup. Some of the additional areas of focus are Natural Resources, Human Services and Capital Construction. These smaller committees evaluate, from a financial perspective, the affordability of a bill within the budget constraints of their allotted pot of money, if you will.

This may appear to outline a tidy process. Frankly, the budget process is the heart of negotiation and, therefore, quite messy. The legislature has to keep the governor’s priorities in mind since she will need to ultimately sign the bill. The governor has to compromise or allow some of the legislators’ priorities to be incorporated into the final document.  

With both the House and Senate having Democrat super majorities and the governor being a Democrat, we can anticipate that the policies that are funded being reflective of those in charge.

Since the budget is primarily the responsibility of the legislature, it is truly important for Oregon citizens to maintain relationships with their locally elected representative and senator. 

This is the most direct path to have your priorities heard in the Capitol.