Oregon's State Economy
It is interesting to look at Oregon’s economy. Job growth has been excellent, even surpassing the goal of 25,000 new jobs per year. Oregon’s median household income returned to the national level for the first time since the 1970’s. Our poverty rate is now below the national average. And our unemployment rate is below 3.9%, the lowest in more than 45 years. The 2017 start of the 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly saw an increase in revenue of nearly $1.8 billion, with each revenue forecast since that time painting an even brighter picture.
That’s the good news. The economy is robust and continuing to improve. The bad news is that without major changes to expenditures, we risk putting critical services such as public safety and especially education in peril. The economy depends on education funding to sustain long-term prosperity. So even though revenues are growing, costs and expenditures are outpacing revenues. And the gap is widening with expenses projected to grow even faster. If we maintain our current level of services, economists project that we will face a general fund deficit of between $500 million and $1.1 billion starting in the 2019-20 biennium, with even larger gaps in the following two biennia. And that assumes the economy continues to improve for the next 5-6 years. But we know there is another recession on the horizon.
I believe it is time for both parties and the Governor’s office to work together to address the rising cost of government and programs. We should all have a stake in dealing with what may become a crisis. We should be looking at government waste and inefficiencies. We should be looking at programs to determine whether they are viable and sustainable long term. We should be conducting a regular review of each state agency, looking for inefficiencies and ways to improve service delivery. We should not rely on a robust economy long-term. We should be planning for those downturns and preparing for them.