July 20, 2013
In looking at the Governor’s proposed budget for 2013-15, it appears his top priority is education. Public safety is not on his list of importance. In fact he has reduced the Oregon State Police budge by several millions of dollars. The Legislative leadership (Democrat) refuses to provide funding at an acceptable level for public safety.
The Legislative leadership has been made aware there are a couple of quick solutions in helping the financially distressed Counties. However, they will not put them on their agenda for discussion. They are only interested in coming up with a solution that would increase taxes (income) on Josephine County. They are fully aware that the Josephine County Charter prohibits the County Commissioners from imposing any business or personal income tax. Yet our legislators are trying to come up with amendments to HB 3453, to get around the voters decision.
Solution # 1: The State of Oregon could provide funding for the District Attorney’s office in their proposed budget. This would require an amount of approximately $1million dollars. The District Attorney is a State office and the District Attorney receives a salary of approximately $88,000 from the State. The salary is based on population. Josephine County has historically funded the prosecution function of the District Attorney at 100%. The State does provide some funding for Victims Assistance and Support Enforcement.
The fear of the Governor and the Legislature is by providing funding for the financially distressed Counties they would be opening the door for the other Counties to request funding. However, if the State were to set up criteria and a level before funding would provided, it would help the Counties that are currently having financial problems.
Solution #2: Governor Kitzhaber testified before a committee that if the financially distressed counties were to implement a local income tax, he would able to provide approximately $500,000 as a supplement. What this tells me is there is room in the proposed budget to provide some additional dollars to the Oregon State Police earmarked for use as contracting with the local Sheriff’s office to hire back trained and certified officers that could go back to work almost immediately. This would be better than providing dollars to hire new State troopers that would take one and half years to train before they would be put on the road. It is my understanding the State Police needs more officers for the safety of their existing troopers.
Governor Kitzhaber stated his only option if the income tax is not approved would be to bring in the National Guard. This is not true as is shown above. He has other options he just does not want to exercise them.
Summary: Provide funding to the District Attorney’s office: Provide dollars to allow for the State Police to contract with the Sheriff’s Department. Both of these option could be implemented immediately and show that the State of Oregon is a true partner in the providing of services to the citizens of Oregon and Josephine County.
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In addition, Josephine County and the City of Grants Pass and Cave Junction could join together and approach the Emergency Board of the Legislature that meets monthly, to request financial assistance based on the fact that the City of Grants Pass is going to provide additional funding for jail beds. Governor Kitzhaber stated earlier that if the Counties would come up with some funding the State of Oregon could provide some additional funds to go along with the funding. The additional funds from the State could go toward funding additional Deputy District Attorneys for Josephine County.
I would strongly encourage those of you who care about the quality of life in Jackson & Josephine counties to sign up for the Southern Oregon edition of NewsWithViews alert in the banner above. Information can be a powerful tool. And please, send this article around to all your friends.
© 2013 Harold Haugen - All Rights Reserved
Harold Haugen is a former Josephine County (Oregon) Commissioner serving from 1/1981 to 1/1989 and 1/1990 to 1/2005. He was also appointed to fill out the term of vacated County Commissioner from 1/2012 to 1/2013. During his term of office he was elected to lead the Association of Oregon Counties in 2000.
Appointed by Governor John Kitzhaber to serve on the Criminal Justice Commission and re-appoionted by Governor Kulongoski. Prior to being elected to the County Commissioner position he worked as a private investigator for 15 years. Harold is a strong believer in private property rights.