State representativer Brad Witt offers his perspective on last week's failure by the Oregon Senate to pass the key education funding measure necessary to get the state budget approved. In his weekly newsletter Witt states: "There was high drama over on the Senate side this week as we watched a vote on the Education budget fail on a 15-15 vote. Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) joined 14 Republicans in voting no, but for reasons different than his colleagues from the other side of the aisle. Senator Edwards had opposed the budget ever since its unveiling because, in spite of the fact that the majority of school districts would be able to avoid further cuts, there were still a few that would continue to experience deep cuts. The Republicans objected to the budget because they did not feel that reforms to the PERS system went far enough. Hence, these unlikely bedfellows joined forces to defeat the bill.
Although this is not a perfect budget, it provides $6.75 billion for schools over the next two years. This is achieved by a direct appropriation of $6.55 billion plus another $200 million in reductions to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). A coalition of school advocates supported this budget as at least providing stability to districts that have suffered enormously during the recession. It is a $1 billion improvement over the last budget approved in 2011, and it is the largest public school investment in Oregon history.
When a measure of this import fails, there is usually a move to reconsider the bill, which Senator Edwards did. He moved to bring the bill back to the floor for reconsideration on the 21st. That date has now been moved to the 26th. During this time, leadership on both sides of the aisle, plus the Governor's office, is trying to resolve the impasse. This is the state's largest budget, so it must be settled before we can adjourn"