SALEM — No new arguments were advanced during a two-hour debate — and no minds were changed — as the Oregon House voted along party lines Tuesday for a $7.3 billion state school fund for the next two years.
The 35-25 vote sent the budget to the Senate, which is expected to take it up in a few days. Democrats have an 18-12 majority over Republicans in that chamber.
Twenty-one House members, 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, spoke during the debate.
The amount is about $600 million more than in the current two-year cycle. It includes $220 million to cover costs of full-day kindergarten, which Oregon’s 197 districts are required to start this fall.
“I did not come here to shortchange kids; I came to give them everything we can,”Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, who as House budget co-chairman was the budget’s floor manager, said.“This budget represents the best we can do under the resources we have.”
The school-fund budget contains a trigger that earmarks for the school fund 40 percent of any increased income tax collections projected in the state’s next quarterly economic and revenue forecast May 14.
A procession of school district administrators and board members told lawmakers, however, that the minimum should be at least $7.5 billion.
Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville, said lawmakers should be able to earmark more from the tax-supported general fund with a rising economy.
“We do not have a revenue problem; we have a commitment problem,” Davis said. “When will it ever be enough to make that commitment?”
The Oregon Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, has not endorsed a figure. But its president said lawmakers should fund current operations before new initiatives such as increased spending on early childhood education, reading skills, and school-to-work and high school completion programs.
The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.