Ore. budget hole cuts 20 trooper jobs
EDWARD WALSH, The Oregonian
The $172 million shortfall at the Department of Human Services is threatening to affect other state agencies, beginning with the Oregon State Police, which will not get money for 20 trooper positions from the Legislature's Emergency Board later this month.
Citing uncertainty about how to resolve the human services funding gap, Gov. Ted Kulongoski decided not to forward the state police request to the board for its Jan. 19-20 meeting in Salem.
The Emergency Board, commonly known as the E-Board, doles out money to state agencies between legislative sessions.
"The governor felt now is not the time to overburden the E-Board when it is in the process of something as big as the DHS rebalance," said Lonn Hoklin, a Kulongoski spokesman. "He hopes they will take it up in April. He is very committed to beefing up the state police."
Hoklin said no other agency has been denied permission to seek additional money from the board this month because of the human services situation.
The department reported the size of the funding gap late last month. The gap is largely the result of state forecasters missing almost 30,000 people --or 7 percent of the agency's caseload --when they estimated how many Oregonians would qualify for government-paid health care in 2005-07. The health care miscalculation accounts for about $100 million of the $172 million shortfall.
The Emergency Board has about $29 million to cover unexpected needs during the next two years. At its January meeting, the board will consider agency requests totaling more than $19 million. The largest of those requests is from the Department of Human Services for $9.1 million to improve conditions and services at the Oregon State Hospital.
The state police request was for $1.7 million for 12 new trooper positions and eight new evidence technicians, allowing troopers who are now doing evidence work to return to patrol duty.
According to Andy Moyer, vice president of the Oregon State Police Officers' Association, the Legislature cut the trooper positions rather than eliminate 20 detective positions as Kulongoski had sought. He said House leaders assured state police officials that the Emergency Board would restore the positions in October.
But the trooper issue was not on the board's October agenda and is not scheduled to be discussed at the January meeting.
"DHS can't balance a checkbook, and we're being left out in the dark," said Jeff Leighty, president of the officers' association.
Legislative leaders have said that all options, including a special session of the Legislature, are open in trying to resolve the funding gap.
Hoklin said Kulongoski thinks that talk of a special session is premature, but "no single entity can solve this problem on its own. DHS is going to need the assistance of the Legislature."
Hoklin also said Kulongoski hopes the human services situation will be clearer by the Emergency Board's April meeting, allowing it to consider the state police request.
Edward Walsh: 503-294-4153; firstname.lastname@example.org
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