Oregon’s new governor, Tina Kotick, wants to spend $1 billion in the next two years to maintain and build affordable housing, divert more than $9 billion to public schools and set aside millions to increase staff at an Oregon State Hospital, under a proposed $240.6 billion spending plan she released Tuesday.
A budget proposed by the governor is a moral document—a reference to the legislators who are actually responsible for balancing the state’s books What the state CEO considers more important. So it’s no surprise that Kotek’s proposed 2023-25 budget focuses on the central issues I spoke about on the campaign trail: Oregon’s housing crisis, improving access to mental health and addiction services, and improving outcomes for Oregon students.
“The housing crisis is one of the largest emergencies we have faced in Oregon and the human suffering it is causing to individuals, families and communities is unacceptable,” Kotick wrote in the budget document. “We can and must rise to face the moment.”
The neoconservative housing campaign is ambitious. The state has already called for 36,000 new homes to be built annually, an 80% increase over current production.
The housing portion of its budget is based on a request it has already made to lawmakers: $130 million to prevent homelessness For more than 8,700 families, it rehoused 1,200 homeless people and built 600 new shelter beds within one year.
Kotek’s budget calls for the creation of a government housing production and accountability office to provide technical assistance and support to local governments and housing developers. Under its plan, the new agency will play a central role in helping to reduce land use and permitting barriers to housing production.
About 18,000 Oregonians are now homeless, according to state estimates, and about 11,000 of them have no home at all. Oregon has one of the highest rates of homeless students in the country, according to Kotek Budget, and Native Americans are four times more likely to be represented in the homeless population; Other communities of color are also overrepresented.
In addition to the $130 million in immediate funds Kotek requested, here are some other housing highlights:
- $172.2 million to help people connect with long-term rental assistance
- $73 million to create long-term homelessness prevention programs in Oregon
- $24.1 million to maintain shelter operations, including 600 new shelter beds and those created through Project Turnkey projects
- $4.5 million to help people with housing support pay for affordable insurance
- Continuing emergency response $5.3 coordinated by the Oregon Department of Emergency Management and Oregon Housing Community Services
- $130 million to build new, permanent supportive housing
- $770 million in bonds to help build new affordable homes for renters and new homeowners
- $118 million to preserve existing affordable homes, including manufactured homes, and another $4 million to support the replacement of outdated, inefficient manufactured homes
- $13.6 million for down payment assistance
- $5 million for community land trust funds
- $9.4 million to improve community access to housing through assistance with language translation, and technical assistance for Oregon Housing Community Services
- $5 million to the nine sovereign tribal states of Oregon
During the 2022 campaign for governor, Kotick was the only candidate who said she would not try to repeal Measure 110the groundbreaking drug decriminalization measure passed by voters in 2020. The idea behind the measure was to focus less resources on punishing drug users and more on treating them, but its rollout has been slow.
Now, Kotick said, there are hundreds of new supportive housing and housing sites in the pipeline, and she believes that along with its budget proposal, the state can finally move away from being “in constant crisis” and toward “proactive interventions.”
Kotek said it wants to invest state taxpayer money to reduce hospitalizations and overdoses, provide more timely access to behavioral health and provide a less restrictive environment for people to meet their needs. It also proposes staffing increases and facilities upgrades for the state hospital.
Here are some other highlights of behavioral health funding:
- $195.7 million continued funding for assistance and aid services, peer respite centers, housing for transitional youth and more
- $40 million to increase additional mental health capacity
- $14.9 million to fund civil commitment services, expand prison diversion services to all counties, and pre-civil commitment patient outreach and intervention
- $12.3 million to expand rehabilitation services
- $8.7 million for substance use disorder treatment at Oregon State Penitentiary and Snake River Institute
- $18.4 million to fund 988 suicide and crisis cases
- $47.6 million for programs like Cahoots to get people out of hospital and prison
- $278.9 million in addiction treatment, overdose prevention, and peer support services, funded in part by Measurement 110 grants
- $15 million for inpatient treatment and community recovery centers
- $40 million to reduce deaths related to opioid use
- $7.7 million to help prevent youth and adult suicide
- $127 million to increase the Medicaid rate to increase wages for behavioral health workers
- $60 million to pay off loans, scholarships, and tuition for licensed behavioral health providers and students in the workforce pipeline
- $20 million to increase OHA’s health care provider incentive program to recruit and retain diverse health care workers
- $34.5 million to increase staff at Oregon State Hospital
- $3.5 million to establish a health equity unit at a state hospital
- $4.2 million for the complex case management unit at Oregon State Hospital
- $8 million to upgrade hospital facilities and improve patient recovery
Oregon’s graduation rates are among the lowest in the nation, and the state lacks adequate childcare and early learning services. Kotek proposes spending large sums on improving student literacy and expanding physical spaces for preschools and child care.
But the governor is likely to face opposition from school officials to the $9.9 billion she wants to direct toward the Public Schools Fund, which pays for K-12 education in the state. While state budget officials have said the fund needs roughly $9.5 billion in the next budget cycle to avoid disruption, the Oregon School Boards Association is skeptical of that math and believes instead that Kotek and state lawmakers need to approve $10.3 billion for K-12 schools. To avoid cuts, CEO Jim Green said Tuesday.
Here are some other highlights of education spending:
- $100 million to increase student literacy and ensure elementary and middle school teachers have the training, time, and materials they need
- $20 million for summer programs aimed at increasing literacy
- $62.5 increase in pay rates for early learning professionals
- $41.3 million increase in rates of work-related day care improvements, or ERDC
- $5 million to participate in early childhood education and affordable housing
- $100 million to expand the physical capacity of preschool and childcare facilities
- $30 million for summer enrichment programs
- $18 million to increase investments in student success plans
- 1.4 million dollars to carry out ethnic studies
- $4.8 million for technical assistance to rural and small schools