Right now we are fighting to protect public employee jobs and maintain our state services against a difficult budget shortfall. That is why it is crucial for our coworkers to be united and let Oregonians know how important public employees are to our state’s safety and recovery. It looks like your membership is not up to date, now would be a great time to activate your membership and help us protect the jobs of union members across Oregon.
State economists released their Revenue Forecast this summer, confirming what we already knew: Oregon must take swift action to protect the services our communities need as we recover from COVID-19.
In their report, the State’s economists predicted a $2.7 billion shortfall in the current budget (2019-2021), which means the State will have to take steps to balance the budget. How we do so is a choice.
Now it is time for public employees to raise their voices since we know that we are the frontline workers who will put Oregon back on the right track
There are four things we can do right away that will help prevent layoffs, furloughs or benefit cuts.
- Become a member of the union. It is critical that we make our union as strong as possible so that we can show that working people should be the top priority when considering the budget. The bigger our membership, the stronger our bargaining position becomes, and that is how we get the best deal possible. Click here to activate your membership.
- Use every available federal dollar. Right now the U.S. Senate is considering a COVID-19 relief package. This is must-pass legislation, and it must include resources for state governments to address budget shortfalls. Even if the next relief package falls short, Oregon should use federal funds from the CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to protect frontline workers and the services we provide.
- Decouple from federal tax cuts. The CARES Act cuts taxes for wealthy individuals and corporations by an estimated $135 billion. Because Oregon’s state taxes are “coupled” to federal taxes, these cuts will have an impact on Oregon’s budget. Giving a tax break to the people who need it least at the expense of public services is not in keeping with Oregon’s values. The Legislature should review the impacts of decoupling our tax code from federal tax law.
- Strategically use Reserve Funds. Oregon entered into this crisis on solid financial footing, with a healthy ending balance ($1.15B) and a healthy reserve fund ($1.5B). So much so that in April, Moody’s Analytics rated Oregon as one of the states best prepared to weather a recession. With an estimated $4 Billion shortfall in the 2021-23 biennium, we need to be thoughtful on using some reserves now and saving them for the future to offset future cuts.
- Find savings from reduced programs to offset the shortfall. We need to see an analysis of how much money the state is saving as a result of reduced services.
SEIU 503 members are fighting for these priorities in Salem, in negotiations with management and in our communities. Through our union, we have the power to make sure our voices are heard.
Our public services workers are on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. A recovery that reflects Oregon’s values will protect services as well as the people who provide them. Layoffs and budget cuts in the public sector will send us deeper into a recession, forcing more people onto public assistance while at the same time reducing the ability to provide that assistance.
We must learn from the mistakes we made in 2008, when austerity measures at the state level made the recession worse. A recovery plan that reflects Oregon’s values will support Oregonians by protecting the services they rely on.