Governor has job program plan

At a May 15 address to the City Club of Portland, Governor Ted Kulongoski announced an emergency jobs program to help put at least 12,000 unemployed Oregonians back to work this summer.
    
If approved by the legislature, jobs under the Governor’s plan would begin July 1 and target unemployed Oregonians seeking a salary range of $8.40 – $10.00 per hour. Currently, there are 80,000 unemployed individuals with active profiles with the Employment Department that have expressed an interest in being hired for a job that pays within this hourly wage range. Furthermore, the average unemployment payment right now is $250 per week. Under the Governor’s plan, a full-time job paying $8.40 an hour would be $336 per week.

 

 

The plan, called the Oregon Emergency Jobs Program, requires
legislative approval for a one-time redirection of approximately $90
million in future payments to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust
Fund. The fund currently amounts to $1.5 billion and has a dedicated
funding source through regular payments by employers through payroll
taxes.
   
"This is not just about helping out-of-work
Oregonians put bread on the table. This is also about restoring pride
and dignity to the human spirit," the Governor said. "A job can do
that, especially when the job demands a skill that benefits the places
we live – and the neighbors we live near."
   
The kinds of jobs
created under the Governor’s plan include restoration of wetlands to
construction of trails in parks, improving watersheds and removing
brush from fire-prone forests and adjacent home sites or could be to
help fill a public service such as delivering food for a food bank. The
Oregon Food Bank network has identified more than 1,000 jobs statewide
that could be added to help families in need.
   
The Department
of Community College and Workforce Development will administer the
program dispersing the funds to non-profit organizations, cities,
counties and contracted partners with temporary jobs that can be filled
quickly.
   
"The Oregon Emergency Jobs Program – which is
designed to start in July because many of the new jobs can only be done
in the summer – needs quick action by the legislature," the Governor
continued. "I know the Legislature, too, wants to create jobs and hope
they will be my partner so that together we can put thousands of
Oregonians back to work. Delay is not an option"
   
The
Governor also addressed the May revenue forecast, which reported that
the state is facing an approximate $4 billion shortfall for the 2009-11
biennium.
   
"A budget of 13-billion dollars – down from over
17-billion – isn’t just a new number:  It is a new reality that will
require changing a lot of what we want to do – in order to protect what
we absolutely must do," the Governor continued. "Some government
functions have to go – at least for the foreseeable future.  Oregon
state government can no longer be all things to all people."
   
Among
the potential changes in what state government does, the Governor
outlined possible suspension of some state agencies, boards and
commissions that include: The Board of Massage Therapists, the Board of
Occupational Therapy, the Commission for the Blind, the Board of
Licensed Dietitians, the Consumer Advisory Council and the Advocacy
Commissions.
   
The Governor also called for consolidation of
the Aviation Department and all of the health-related agencies, boards
and commissions. Consolidation of the Oregon Student Assistance
Commission into the University System will also be considered.
   
The
Governor also reiterated his commitment to the priorities that guided
the budget he released in December, including education, health care,
transportation and climate change.
   
"I originally proposed
$6.3-billion for K through 12.  That number was based on last
November’s revenue forecast," the Governor said. "I want the 2009 –
2011 budget to get as close to my original number as possible – and I
will work with the Legislature to achieve that objective."
   
"The
reality is: Education is not the only responsibility of state
government. The state must also look out for our most vulnerable
citizens, keep the public safe and secure in their homes and
communities, and protect our pristine environment," the Governor said.
   
Unlike
many other states, Oregon still has money in reserves. Currently the
state has approximately $900-million in federal stimulus funds, and
another $900-million in the Rainy Day Fund and Education Stabilization
Fund for a total of $1.8 billion in reserves for the 2009-11 biennium.
   
"The end of this legislative session is a long way from the end of the
biennium. The economy has not stopped its decline – and we do not know
what a recovery will look like when the current economic decline ends,"
the Governor said. "If we don’t hold onto the reserves, we’re setting
ourselves up for hundreds of millions of dollars – if not more – in
additional cuts early next year and no money put away to cover the
losses."
   
The Governor added, "We’ve seen this movie before: 
It’s called five special sessions in 2002. We do not want to go there
again."
   
The Governor ended his address by announcing his
plan to assemble a cabinet to examine all budget mandates the currently
control state spending. This includes a look at previous ballot
measures that have tied the state’s hands when in comes to making
investments in the services and programs that are essential to
Oregonians.
   
"If we want to preserve quality education in
Oregon; if we want to save family-wage jobs; if we want to stop having
to make wrenching choices between protecting children and protecting
seniors; and if we want to end the insanity of waking up every few
years trying to dig our way out of a deep budget hole – we must do
something different," the Governor said.
   
The Governor said
he will have more information in July on the cabinet and its charge and
will expect a report back from them on December 1, 2009.
   
"The
vise of these ballot measures leaves government with a shrinking
General Fund and very little flexibility when economic conditions
change – as they did suddenly at the end of 2007," the Governor said.
"The time has come to have a discussion with the public about the
reality of our budgetary vise.  It won’t be an easy conversation.  But
if there was ever an appropriate time – it is after we manage through
this legislative session and chart our path forward."
   
The
cabinet will take a comprehensive and strategic look at all of the
mandates – state and federal – that control budget and revenue
decisions. Once the cabinet reports back to the Governor, he will
determine whether to recommend to the legislature constitutional
changes in these critical ballot measures and the kicker.
   
The
Governor then closed with an optimistic outlook for Oregon: "I promise
you there is a better day coming for Oregon. Because this is still the
place where hope begins and the trail to America’s promised land ends."

 

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