Oregon’s biennial budget process is strangling the state. It is myopic and incremental and does not drive continuous improvement. Myopia combined with a volatile tax system leads to continuous budget crises, and a slow withering of essential services. The key to budget redesign is identifying populations the state is trying to serve or support (e.g. students, patients, seniors, inmates), spelling out the results we seek for each group, identifying how much we are paying for those services per person today, determining how much we want to pay for them moving forward, and investing in the most cost-effective strategies to achieve those outcomes.
We should examine trends and forecast what costs will be in the future. We should anticipate the long-term revenue and expenditure impacts of each budget decision. A complete budget system overhaul is essential to get Oregon on track. It was recommended two years ago by Governor Kulongoski’s Revenue Restructuring Task Force and it has been a centerpiece of Governor Kitzhaber’s public finance strategy. The Governor’s 2013-2015 Budget was designed with these principles in mind and is part of a larger 10-yr Plan for Oregon effort being led by the Governor and COO Michael Jordan.
These efforts must continue, and should extend beyond the Governor’s Office into the legislative branch of Government and the Ways and Means process.