Members of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means (the legislature’s budget committee) have been anything but idle recently. Just days after releasing a detailed list of possible cuts, five members of the budget committee presented a cost-containment plan that included temporary and long-term actions that the legislature should consider to curb future budget growth, according to The Oregonian.
At least one of these proposals has already gone into effect. The day before the committee members released their memo, Gov. Kate Brown announced a hiring freeze on new state workers by executive order. Her plan calls for a two-month freeze while the five-member budget committee memo calls for a two-year freeze, as reported by The Register-Guard. Senate Republicans called for the same longer-term approach just hours before the executive order was announced, citing potential budget savings of up to $790 million per biennium based on an initial analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO).
Other notable elements of the cost-containment memo include limiting state government full-time equivalent positions to 1 percent of the population instead of the current limit of 1.5 percent of the population, specific proposals to reduce Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) costs – a major driver of the current shortfall — and improving the management and containment of health-care costs for public employees.
Arguably the most promising part of the memo was the section titled “Cost-Containment Budget Principles” which contained a list of recommendations for budget writers to consider as they set out to do the work of the people. Among these were: “Do not create programs and start them at the end of the biennium,” “Do not create new programs or funds that have no money to support them,” and “Require analysis of ongoing costs rather than initial costs for all new programs.”