Budget cuts hit natural resources
Coba: Lottery funds provide 'one-time fix' for programs
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Natural resource agencies are feeling the brunt of budget cuts as lawmakers look to dampen the effect of a $340 million state budget shortfall on corrections and human services.
In the budget plan lawmakers approved in the final hours of the 2012 legislative session, natural resource agencies averaged 5 to 6 percent reductions, according to Lauren Henderson, an assistant director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. That's higher than the approximately 3.5 percent cut for most other agencies.
ODA was looking at a 8.5 percent reduction from its $13 million 2011-13 general fund budget.
The department has delayed filling vacant positions and used lottery proceeds to fund two programs -- the state's weed control and insect pest prevention and management program -- previously earmarked for general fund support.
The IPPM program monitors for exotic pests and treats when needed. The weed control program monitors for and treats noxious weeds.
The lottery funds now going to the programs are "one-time moneys," Director Katy Coba said.
"That's gone at the end of this biennium," Coba said. "We have made it clear (to lawmakers) that this is a one-time fix. But we will need the general fund back in those programs or we will be cutting programs next biennium."
The department is delaying filling three marketing positions lawmakers approved when they adopted the department's 2011-13 budget.
The department hopes to fill one of the positions soon, Coba said, and fill the other two next fall.
Before they do, however, officials are awaiting budget instructions from the Ways and Means co-chairs.
"There have been discussions about wanting to cut management positions, but we don't have specific instructions yet," Coba said.
"We'll have to wait and see the budget instructions," Coba said.
ODA, like other state agencies, is preparing to propose specific budget cuts to the legislative Emergency Board in May based on the co-chairs' directions.
The approach is unusual.
"I cannot recall, certainly in my tenure as director, that we have had an exercise like this," Coba said.
"This is a much more narrow, prescriptive cut than we've had before," Henderson said.