SALEM — Budget cuts will not mean a reduction in services for seniors who get publicly funded long-term care, key Oregon legislators said Friday.
A budget compromise released this week would reduce state funding for the program, but legislators said they are very confident that another funding source will fill in the gap.
“Nothing is going to happen to home health care right now, or nursing homes or assisted living,” said Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, a co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee.
Legislative leaders agreed late Thursday on $200 million in spending cuts to get the Oregon budget back in balance.
Lawmakers agreed not to close prisons or cut funding for schools, but their plan would lay off State Police detectives and further tighten the belt on safety net programs for needy families.
It would not tap money from state savings accounts or raise taxes.
The plan is still subject to approval in the full Legislature, which could happen within days. Aides say Gov. John Kitzhaber would sign it.
To avoid cutting services for people who provide long-term care to seniors, lawmakers believe they have a good shot at securing federal money to backfill a $13.4 million reduction in state funding that would kick in later in the two-year budget cycle. If the economy improves, budget writers have agreed that the program would get the first fruits of an uptick in state revenue.
The measure will have the support to pass the Legislature, said Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, a budget committee co-chair.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we can do and everyone understands that,” Richardson said.
The plan calls for state agencies to reduce staff — primarily through attrition or layoffs in secretarial, middle management and public affairs positions — and to reduce their spending on contractors and advertising. Altogether, it would be a $28 million cut that Kitzhaber had sought to reduce but lawmakers insisted upon in hopes of reducing the long-term cost of government.
Lawmakers have given Kitzhaber’s administration three months to come up with a plan for the savings.
A budget framework released earlier this month called for the closure of the Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem, but the idea was eliminated from the final budget document. The Department of Corrections will still face cuts, but they will be less steep than proposed earlier this month.
Twelve detective positions would be eliminated from the Oregon State Police under the latest plan.
Safety net initiatives for low-income families also take a hit, although lawmakers say they’ve avoided making more severe cuts.
Families in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program would not see their payments reduced. But a separate program that continues cash assistance for welfare recipients after they find work would be defunded, and people who drop out of the program for various reasons would have a harder time getting back in.
Co-payments for families receiving employment-related day care would increase by 10 percent, an average of $5 to $10 a month.
Lawmakers used much of a $56 million legal windfall from tobacco giant Philip Morris and an $8.9 million settlement with Farmers Insurance to avoid some cuts.
A portion of the state’s share of a settlement with mortgage lenders over foreclosure practices would be retained to offset future revenue shortfalls or unanticipated spending, although officials say the priority would be to use it to assist people affected by foreclosure.