Posted: Friday, March 02, 2012 4:52 PM
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 are advancing in final hours of the 2012 legislative session, natural resource agencies are averaging 5 to 6 percent budget reductions, according to Lauren Henderson, an assistant director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. That's higher than the approximately 3.5-percent cut proposed for most other agencies.
ODA, which is looking at an 8.5 percent reduction from its $13 million 2011-13 general fund budget, is one of the hardest hit.
The department is adjusting by delaying filling vacant positions and using lottery funds to backfill two programs previously earmarked for general fund support. The state's weed control and insect pest prevention and management program -- two programs earmarked for general fund support at the start of the biennium, now are being funded by lottery funds.
The state's 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 is hoping to fill one of the positions relatively soon, Coba said, and fill the other two next fall.
Before officials do, however, they are awaiting budget instructions from the Ways and Means co-chairs. The co-chairs are expected in the next week or two to provide specific instructions regarding what programs and positions they want agencies to cut.
"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.