If practice makes perfect, then Multnomah County officials will soon be the best budget cutters in Oregon.

After slicing $14.7 million out of a $300 million budget this spring, the county now has to cut another $20 million--or 7 percent--by the end of the year, thanks to a weak economy and some over-optimistic budgeting in June.

Slumping business income-tax receipts have gouged a $14 million hole in the county's budget. The remaining shortfall comes from revenue that never materialized, such as money the county anticipated for jail-bed rentals to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

County officials say the budget cuts will be excruciating.

"There is not any way to protect every job," says County Chair Diane Linn, politely acknowledging that the county will have to lay off some employees. "This isn't about fairness--this is about what Multnomah County should be funding."

With the magnitude of the new cuts sinking in, entire programs--from early-childhood services to health care to law enforcement--are facing the ax.

Linn and county commissioners will sit down Oct. 15 to sort through the county's core programs and look for excess baggage.

With the new cuts, the county will have slashed 12 percent from its budget over the last year, a figure that rivals the Measure 5 budget cuts of the early '90s. But Linn and company fear the money picture may get worse: The state Legislature is expected to meet in special session in the near future to whack hundreds of millions of dollars from education and human-services budgets.