A headline in The Oregonian several weeks ago made the point that murky words get in the way of public understanding of health care reform issues. An Oregonian editorial last weekend urged Governor Kitzhaber to do a better job of sketching the details of his vision of education and health care reform.
Murkiness also exists when it comes to general budget issues as legislators head to their first official annual session two weeks from now.
Consider these facts/perceptions about the budget:
* The state economist says the general fund is down by $305 million from the close of the 2011 legislative session. On a total general fund budget of more than $14 billion for a biennium, that is a rounding factor. Still, perceptions exist that cuts to K-12, higher education, cops and prisons and social services will be in the offing during the February session.
* One key legislator on the Joint Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee was spending time in his office several weeks ago preparing a cut list of about $500 million. Those cuts, if enacted, would exceed the total $305 million revenue drop projected so far.
* Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, House co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, took credit earlier this fall for holding back a "reasonable ending balance of $460 million when the committee he co-chairs approved the 2011-13 budget." In his on-line newsletter, he added this noteworthy quote: "...the good news is that having withstood the political pressure to spend every dollar and by retaining the $460 million ending balance, none of the $305 million of reduced revenue will be taken from the budgets for public safety, human services or education."