Oregon Governor Seeks Tax, $946 Million for State Schools

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Gov. Victor G. Atiyeh of Oregon will ask the state legislature for $3.2-billion for general-fund expenditures in his 1985-87 budget request, including $946 million in basic support for the state's elementary and secondary schools.

The Governor, who has strongly supported education reform and opposed property-tax rollbacks, will also propose that lawmakers back a sales tax to address the inequities in and unpopularity of property taxation, according to Jon Yunker, state budget administrator. Oregon has never had a state sales tax, Mr. Yunker said, although the institution of such a tax has been proposed a number of times over the years.

The most recent indication of a property-tax revolt in Oregon was the very narrow defeat in November of Ballot Measure 2, a property-tax-limitation plan that educators said would have crippled school budgets. And in recent years, local voters have rejected a number of school levies, putting district budgets in jeopardy.

Increase for Schools

The general-fund request represents a 5.4-percent increase over general-fund spending in the current biennial budget period, and the school-funding request represents a 7.6-percent increase over the current budget of $880 million, according to Mr. Yunker.

The Governor will present his budget to the legislature when it convenes on Jan. 14.

'The Oregon Plan'

In his budget, Governor Atiyeh is seeking a 5-percent sales tax that would generate $750 million a year for public education over and above the basic school-support funding.

Under the proposal, which is called "The Oregon Plan," $700 million would be returned to school districts each year to offset diminished property-tax revenues, and $50 million would go to community colleges, Mr. Yunker explained. If approved by the legislature, the measure would go to the general public for a vote, probably in May.

"We're trying to provide stable funding," Mr. Yunker said, noting the recent emergence of property-tax-relief initiatives in the state.

Last month, Ballot Measure 2, the "Constitutional Real Property Tax Limit," narrowly failed to win voter approval, a sign, Mr. Yunker said, that Oregonians are very displeased with property taxes. The measure would have limited property taxes, rolled back assessments, and restricted growth. Governor Atiyeh and state educators charged that it would have taken $700 million out of elementary and secondary education.

Funding for Reforms

The Governor is also seeking $3.2 million for a basic-education program that includes elements of the "Oregon Action for Excellence Plan" that was approved by the state board in June and proposed in the education department's budget request to the Governor, Mr. Yunker said.

The basic-education program calls for the establishment of standards and basic course requirements for students at every level of primary and secondary education and the development of a statewide curriculum, statewide testing, educational technology, and increased technical assistance to local districts, Mr. Yunker said.

Vol. 04, Issue 15

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