Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed budget plan provides for fire recovery, cuts to hospitals

OREGON- Oregon Governor Kate Brown held a press conference to lay out her new budget for the state. Brown said the $25.6 billion dollar proposed plan is not enough to fix the damage done by 2020.

Governor Brown emphasized the impact of some changes and called on the federal government to provide further financial aid to states.

But she also stressed the need for sacrifice- both in how the final plan will take shape and the cuts she’s proposing.

In her plan school funding would stay mostly the same, though a proposed $118 million dollar expansion of broadband access addresses distance learning in rural areas.

The plan also includes over $300 million dollars for fire clean-up and rebuilding, as well as $70 million dollars towards fire preparedness. The budget would also address housing and homelessness issues, especially in minority communities.

Governor Kate Brown says these changes reflect what they have seen and learned over the past year.

“We must take the lessons learned from the last recession, from this pandemic, and from the wildfires and ensure that this time, no one gets left behind,” Governor Brown said. But there are some significant cuts.

The Governor’s plan would make major cuts to hospitals because of the increased number of people who have signed up for the Oregon Health Plan during the pandemic.

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems released a statement decrying the governor’s decision.

The CEO of the group Becky Hultberg said, “She has chosen to propose direct cuts to hospitals in the middle of the biggest public health crisis in a century, cuts of this magnitude could force hospitals to reduce service to Oregonians during a pandemic.”

Just last month, the group supported Governor Brown and the state’s freeze efforts to curb the pandemic. The full recommended budget plan can be found here.

Below is the full statement from OAHHS:

“The Governor’s budget reflects her priorities and choices. She has chosen to propose direct cuts to hospitals in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in a century. Cuts of this magnitude could force hospitals to reduce services to Oregonians during a pandemic. These cuts cannot be justified. Hospitals led the effort to secure new revenue for the Oregon Health Plan through the passage of M108, which secured $100 million in new revenue for this budget and $300 million for the next biennium.

“Throughout her budget, she specifically targets hospitals at a time when COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising, hospitals are reducing elective procedures, and Oregonians are counting on local hospitals to care for them and their family members. We should be coming together as a community to respond to this pandemic to serve all Oregonians, but this budget does not reflect that spirit of collaboration.

“In addition to addressing COVID-19, hospitals across Oregon have been affected this year by historic fires (which led to the evacuation of five hospitals) and global cyberattacks (which forced at least one hospital to operate on paper for weeks). Over the first six months of 2020, net patient revenue fell about 21% compared to the beginning of the year and stands at its lowest since 2016. As CARES Act funds are depleted (or may be needed to be returned based on latest Provider Relief Reporting guidelines), without additional emergency funds or a steep increase in net patient revenue, the financial situation of community hospitals in Oregon may become more precarious in the months ahead.

“If enacted, the Governor’s budget will exacerbate an already uncertain financial situation for many hospitals. Reductions of this magnitude are likely to cause hospitals to cut services, impacting access to care for vulnerable Oregonians.” 

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