Oregon, we have a 10-year budget vision
It's hard enough planning for the next two years, but 10 years out? Yet that's what Gov. John Kitzhaber said we needed to do to get state leaders thinking both short- and long-term.
The 2013-15 budget proposal he released earlier this year was the first to rely on a 10-year budget plan drawn up by his advisers. No longer will lawmakers focus solely on the task of balancing the revenue and expenditures of an agency over a two-year period. The idea is to get legislators thinking of the broader picture and goals.
What does that mean? Let's take education.
The amorphous overall goal is to make sure "every Oregonian has the knowledge, skills and credentials to succeed in life."The methods to meet that goal are to make college more affordable, beef up work skills training, and so on. And we'll know when we've met the overall goal when all third graders are reading at grade level and 40 percent of students are acquiring bachelor's degrees. There are 15 agencies affected by this particular goal.
From this, experts ferret out real dollar amounts for state programs.Other areas besides education are jobs and innovation, healthy people, healthy environment and, finally, safety.
We asked George Naughton, Oregon' chief financial officer, whether we have a 10-year budget. He said no. There's no way lawmakers can cement a budget beyond the current two-year period, but they can be guided by a 10-year budgeting plan.
It's unclear whether this method of budgeting will live beyond the Kitzhaber administration, but we give this a Promise Kept.
The foundation seems set, but results are still a ways away
While campaigning for governor in 2010, John Kitzhaber promised to pull Oregon out of its two-year budget cycle and get us looking ahead --10 years ahead. The then-candidate told The Oregonian that he would create a 10-year budget plan to offer a clearer sense of the state's priorities.
He"s been in office for a year now, so we thought it was time to check in on his progress.
We talked to Steve Marks, a policy analyst at the state"s Department of Administrative Services, the bureau charged with spearheading this change, for the low down on what"s happened so far.
The folks there set up some general budget categories. For example, Marks said, there"s a new category called "Livability,” which includes services like transportation and community development. The theory is that every program run by the Oregon Department of Transportation should advance long-term livability goals.
To that end, the governor"s office is in the process of outlining some general, long term goals for the state. Ideally, Marks said, goals would be hammered out with lawmakers and public input, but to get the new model moving, the executive branch started things off.
After the February 2012 legislative session, the governor will send out budget instructions to his departments, asking them to prepare budgets based on how they"ll help contribute to the 10-year goals, Marks said.
This would be different from previous budgeting years in a number of ways, Marks said. Rather than continuing previous funding levels, departments will start with a blank slate. Next, the governor"s office will compare the agency's programs with newly created performance guidelines. This will all get worked into the governor"s budget for the 2013-2015 cycle, which is due in November.
The biggest change, though, will come once that budget has been put into practice, he said. At the end of the two-year cycle, the governor"s office and the departments will review the programs and look at how they"re advancing the long-term goals and adjust future funding according to those findings. It"s likely, too, that the long-term plan will be refined and reworked based on the needs of the state.
It"ll be at least another few months until we get a look at what, exactly, the governor"s 10-year plan has in store for Oregon -- and at least November before we know whether he and his staff actually come up with a 10-year plan. It"s also up to lawmakers to approve this new approach in the 2013 session; they have a huge impact on the process.
For now, this is a promise In the Works.