Kulongoski: Oregon's cuts mean 'there will be layoffs'

Gov. Ted Kulongoski acknowledged today that some state workers will lose their jobs as a result of a 9 percent budget cut he has ordered.

"There will be layoffs," Kulongoski said at news conference as shocked state officials absorbed a jolt of bad budget news.

Income tax collections for 2009 fell short of estimates, state economists said, leading to a revenue shortage of half a billion dollars in two years of income that had been expected to top $14 billion.

Kulongoski said budgets will be trimmed by 9 percent during the rest of the state's two-year budget period, which ends in mid-2011. The savings will total $560 million, he said.

The governor, a Democrat in the last year of his two terms, said he used his authority to make across-the-board budget cuts rather than call the Legislature into session during an election year because he feared the lawmakers would dip further into the state's dwindling reserves or wind up in "partisan gridlock."

Having gone through two tough recessions, Kulongoski said, "I have learned ... that in a situation like this, that the best response is swift and decisive action."

Details of job cuts and other budget reductions are expected in the next two weeks, Kulongoski said.

In the state's largest budget category, aid to elementary and secondary education, the cuts would total $237 million and wipe out money the Legislature put in the budget during a session in February.

Kulongoski said there's hope that Congress will send states money to help with widespread shortfalls. Any such money would be targeted to schools and human services.

Leaders of legislative Democrats, who hold 60 percent of the legislative seats, said they would not call the Legislature into session to make selective cuts, as one GOP leader urged. Either the governor or lawmakers themselves can call a session.

— The Associated Press

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