SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown on Friday called a second 2020 Special Session, this time with the stated purpose of addressing Oregon's ailing budget amid a coronavirus-spurred hit to the state economy.
The first special session, which took place over three days in June, focused primarily on police accountability bills and coronavirus relief measures. Now, as Brown foretold at the end of the first session, legislators will be tasked with addressing the budget.
“This crisis has impacted all of us — Oregon families, businesses, non-profits, and local governments have all had to cut costs," Brown said. "The State of Oregon has been tightening its belt as well. With a nearly $1 billion budget deficit in the current biennium, there is more work to do."
Brown has said previously that she hoped to hold off on addressing the budget until the federal government disbursed more aid to states, but the latest iteration of coronavirus relief legislation remains stalled in Congress.
“Unlike the federal government, Oregon must balance our state budget," Brown continued. "State and local governments have been left reeling from the economic downturn. For months, we have waited for Congress to take action, and it is still my hope that they will include aid for states and local governments in the coronavirus relief package currently being negotiated."
Brown said that she wants to preserve critical services through the state's health care, education, and senior services agencies as COVID-19 continues to impact the state, in addition to addressing underserved communities in the states.
Introductory budget talks have largely focused at shuffling funds, halting planned expansions of state programs, and freezing staffing. However, two state prisons have been placed on the chopping block — including Warner Creek Correctional Facility near Lakeview.
Republican leadership has expressed frustration with the first Special Session's focus on policy bills, citing urgency on addressing the state's budget.
“Senate Republicans have been willing to work on the budget since before the governor called the first special session earlier this summer," said Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod, R-Stayton. "If we diverge from the stated purpose of addressing the budget, this second special session will make a mockery of the legislative process yet again. Policy bills should be off the table. The focus should be on the budget.”
The legislature is set to convene at 8 a.m. on August 10.