Governor's budget boosts resource agencies



Capital Press

PORTLAND -- Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber's budget for the 2013-15 biennium includes mostly good news for Oregon's natural resources agencies, according to state Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba.

"I think the really good news for natural resources is the governor was able to increase his investment of general fund in natural resources agencies," Coba said.

"Particularly, when you add in the fact that lottery revenue is down 17 percent, that is really important for us," Coba said. "We get a lot of lottery funds in our agency."

Coba said without the additional general fund support, natural resources agencies would have been forced to absorb dramatic cuts.

"It would have been a very different budget picture for many of the natural resources agencies," Coba said.

The governor's budget serves as a template for lawmakers, who will craft their own 2013-15 biennium budget over the next several months.

Kitzhaber said he propped up general fund support for natural resources agencies to help create vibrancy in the area.

"One of the reasons ... is to try to begin to create more vibrancy in one of our strong suites, which is our natural resources," Kitzhaber said in a press conference Dec. 3 at the 2012 Oregon Leadership Summit in Portland.

The budget, released Nov. 30, includes $24 million for implementing the state's new water resources strategy, including $22 million in bonding authority; $2.5 million in general funds dedicated to water resources development projects; and $4 million for expanding the state's nonpoint source water quality management program.

The budget includes funding for two new positions at the Oregon Water Resources Department and one at the ODA to work on water resources development projects, and funds to rebuild capacity for groundwater monitoring. The budget also includes cost-share funds for water measurement work for water users, and funding for a hydrologist with the OWRD.

The $4 million water quality package includes an expansion of the state's pesticide stewardship program and bolstering the monitoring capacity for nonpoint source pollution.

ODA will serve as the lead agency in the voluntary pesticide stewardship program, according to Richard Whitman, Kitzhaber's natural resources policy advisor.

The governor's budget included a sizable cut in ODA's weed program, Coba said. Weed funds are used to help the state keep noxious weeds in control.

But, overall, Coba said she was happy with the budget.

"For the most part, the governor's budget enables us to maintain our existing programs, whether it is for economic development and marketing, our certification programs, our food safety programs," Coba said.

"And we are able to maintain the monitoring package for our water-quality program, which is very important to us, and enhance our pesticide stewardship program," she said.

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