Group targets state budgeting

A new coalition, consisting largely of conservative critics, wants to change how the Oregon Legislature puts together the two-year state budget.

The New Budget Coalition counts members of the Republican, Libertarian and Constitution parties among its founders, as well as the Taxpayer Association of Oregon and FreedomWorks.

Coalition spokesman Tom Cox of Hillsboro, Libertarian candidate for an Oregon House seat and its 2002 nominee for governor, said Democrats also will be sought.

Though nearly all of them opposed the tax increases that Oregon voters defeated in 2003 and this year, Cox said the coalition has broader aims.

“We realized we may have won a battle, but the war continues,” he said at a news conference Thursday. “This is focused on our budget process, not budget numbers.”

Among the coalition’s goals are for the Legislature to approve budgets for schools and public safety ahead of others, tie approval of individual agency budgets to an overall spending plan, and adopt ways to link spending with outcomes and performance.

“We are going to be supporting candidates who support the coalition concepts,” said Sen. Gary George, R-Newberg, who was a budget subcommittee chairman in 2003.

The Legislature develops a framework for a two-year spending plan, and subcommittees consider details of agency budgets. But lawmakers normally approve most of those budgets after the May 15 revenue forecast in odd-numbered years.

Unlike other states, Oregon does not vote on a single budget for all agencies.

The 2003 Legislature added performance measures for agencies to their 2003-05 budgets, and coalition supporters said they do not seek to duplicate that work.

“But if you keep making the same mistakes over and over, you get the same result,” said Rep. Jeff Kropf, R-Sublimity. “I’d like to see us try something different for a change.”

Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, said there is another reason for change.

“Our economy will not recover sufficiently for us to do business as usual next year,” said Thompson, who will be leaving the House after a nine-month stint. or (503) 399-6745