Gov. Kate Brown today released her initial proposal for the state's 2019-2021 budget.
It's a complex set of proposals—but cutting to the chase, cost-conscious drinkers can breathe a sigh of relief, while smokers should gird themselves for sticker shock. As WW reported last month, the Oregon Health Authority in its draft budget had proposed large increases in the taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages.
The proposed booze tax didn't make the governor's budget, which may reflect the fact that Oregon has a large and powerful group of brewers, distillers and wineries but no tobacco industry.
But the $2-a-pack cigarette tax increase is there.
The increased cigarette tax would bring in a lot of money—"assuming a December 2020 start date: $95 million," Brown's budget document says, "with a projection of $346 million in the next biennium."
In total Brown expects to spend $23.6 billion over that two-year period, an increase of about 13 percent from the 2017-19 legislatively adopted budget of $20.9 billion.
In her budget proposal, Brown pledges to focus on beefing up the state's under performing K-12 education system and continue the state's strong Medicaid expansion. She also plans to tackle some less expensive projects, such as campaign finance reform (she wants to refer a constitutional amendment that would allow for contribution limits) and providing stamps to voters who can't be bothered to obtain them independently (a cost of $2.7 million).
Brown also wants to hire more internal auditors for state agencies and more state cops. She says she'll scrap two perennial targets, the Chief Education Officer (a position due to sunset in on June 30, 2019) and the scandal-plagued Oregon Department of Energy (she'd like it to become part of a new agency, the Oregon Climate Authority).
It is unclear how the state will raise new money to beef up schools. Brown proposes a package of hospital and insurance taxes, along with the cigarette tax to fund a looming deficit in the Oregon Health Plan.