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Inside Salem: Legislator’s Letter: An Update from Rep. Jeff Helfrich

Inside Salem: Legislator’s Letter: An Update from Rep. Jeff Helfrich

In my last piece, I expressed my thoughts on the Short Session coming up. In keeping with that idea, I wanted to take some time to talk about the budgeting process we use in this state, as most Oregonians may not have a good understanding of it.

The first important thing to understand is that we employ a biennial budgeting cycle, meaning that the state budget is set every two years. If that sounds difficult, you’re right, and it is, as I stated before, why voters wanted the short session! Planning two years in advance is next to impossible, so a short session allows us to make necessary adjustments midway through the term.

The second is an understanding of our three types of funding sources: the general fund, dedicated funds, and federal funds.

The general fund consists of revenues generated primarily from (among others) income taxes, corporate taxes, and sales taxes. It is the state’s unrestricted checking account. Dedicated funds are earmarked for specific purposes like an education or a healthcare initiative. These dedicated funds often originate from specific taxes or fees designated for programs or services. Finally, federal funds supplement state resources and support various programs, but often come with specific requirements, necessitating careful compliance to ensure proper utilization.

Third and finally – the process. First the Governor submits her proposal, which outlines the state’s financial obligations and her policy priorities. Then it goes to the budgetary committees who assess the proposed allocations, solicit input from stakeholders and make recommendations in public hearings. It is during these hearings where you can tell us what you think is important. The budget committee votes it out of committee, and then we vote on it in the House, then the Senate. If the legislative budget passes, it goes to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

With so many programs and policymakers involved, it can be hard to determine what is working and what should go. So our government agencies identify “Key Performance Measures” (KPMs), and we revisit their funding based on how they perform on those measures. By linking funding to performance, Oregon aims to maximize the efficiency of government spending while enhancing accountability to taxpayers. By employing performance-based budgeting principles, we foster transparency and accountability about where your tax dollars are going.

And that’s how a budget is built! But what do you think? Should we continue budgeting this way or does something need to change?

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