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Guest Opinion

Kitzhaber’s 2015-17 budget is more than just beer money

Gov. John Kitzhaber released his proposed 2015-17 budget earlier in December. Critics were quick to argue that it’s either too much or too little, depending on their point of view. Media reports focused on his “general fund” budget which, at $18.6 billion, would be an 11 percent increase over the current budget.

In an attempt to make this number seem inconsequential, one person commented on an Oregonian story that $18.6 billion over two years works out to about $6.50 per day per Oregonian. He characterized that as less than the price of one beer at a Trail Blazers game, and noted that with the governor’s budget “you get a whole state, and you’re only renting the beer.”

But that’s less than one third of the story. While the “general fund” is, in effect, the discretionary part of the budget funded primarily by state income tax revenue, the “all funds” budget is much larger.

At $66.5 billion, the governor’s “all funds” budget proposal is more than three-and-a-half times bigger than the $18.6 billion “general fund” amount. Much of that comes from fees and federal funds, but it’s still our money.

So, in the words of that one-beer-a-day commenter, the governor’s total budget proposal actually would buy every Oregonian three Blazer game beers a day. Put in a more meaningful way, that’s $16,625 over the two-year period for every man, woman and child in the state. Or, $66,500 for a family of four.

Now that’s real money.

Steve Buckstein is founder and senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute.

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