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Windfall economic forecast prompts calls from Oregon lawmakers for additional spending on jobs, housing and public safety

Oregon's February economic forecast adds nearly $800 million to the state's projected revenue for the current biennium.
Credit: RG - stock.adobe.com
State Capitol building in Salem, Oregon.

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon’s February economic forecast from the state Office of Economic Analysis includes a substantial state revenue windfall, revising projected General Fund revenues for the 2021-23 biennium upward by $789 million from the previous forecast in December.

Personal and corporate income taxes and other sources like lottery sales are all outpacing projections, state economists wrote in the forecast report released Wednesday morning.

Oregon lawmakers were already looking at roughly $2 billion to allocate when they convened last week for a 35-day short session, and Wednesday’s forecast news generated immediate calls for additional spending on key priorities from both parties.

“Wow…That is a lot of money,” Senate President Peter Courtney said in a statement. “We can build big projects across the state. We can get the homeless off the street. We can do year-round schools. And we can better recruit, train and evaluate police. Much work to do in a very short period.”

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Gov. Kate Brown issued a statement calling for the additional funding to be spent on community safety initiatives, while reiterating support for her previous proposals for the session that focused on job growth, housing investment and support for working families.

“And as we work to help Oregon families succeed, with these additional resources at the midpoint of session, we also have an opportunity to ensure that every Oregonian feels safe in their community,” she said.

Republican lawmakers criticized Brown last week for what they characterized as a lack of attention to criminal justice and public safety heading into the session, and they reiterated those concerns on Wednesday.

Oregon Senate Republicans issued a press release pushing to spend $60 million of the excess revenue on the Oregon State Police to combat illegal marijuana grows and help local law enforcement with general public safety needs.

“Crime is on the rise,” Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) said in a statement. “The Governor continues to double down on letting criminals out of prison, while several bills are working through the legislature that will make our communities more dangerous. We must invest in public safety.”

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Senate Republicans also said they would push for a $50 million appropriation to fund forest thinning operations in Oregon, which Knopp described as a wildfire prevention measure and an answer to “decades of forest mismanagement.”

“We must also be responsible with this money,” Knopp added. “We need to reserve more funds for the next downturn. We also need to look seriously at giving Oregonians a tax break.”

Oregon Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego), House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) and House Majority Leader Julie Fahey (D-West Eugene) all released statements calling for increased investments in jobs, schools, housing and small businesses.

“Today’s forecast is a green light for immediate investments to help kids succeed in school, get people into housing and make sure working families and small businesses are benefitting from our recovery,” Wagner said. “We must make sure that every community in Oregon shares these strong economic gains.”

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