When the legislature convenes for short sessions, it passes policy bills and makes adjustments to the two-year (biennium) state budget. The 2015 session set the budget for 2015-2017. In this 2016 session the budget will be rebalanced or adjusted as program needs and financial forecasts change.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) has asked the legislature for additional dollars this session. These dollars will help fill a budget gap in 2016 that was created by caseload growth and cost-per-case increases. These increases are in the Office of Developmental Disability Services as well as the Aging and People with Disabilities budgets.
We are hearing positive and consistent messages from the Ways and Means Co-Chairs that the legislature will grant DHS the requested funds this session. While this is encouraging, it is vital that you reach out to your legislators and tell them why your IDD services are important for you to live and work as a member of your community.
In other budget news, Oregon is doing a better job of making sure children have developmental screenings. These screenings are identifying more children who need Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education Services (EI/ECSE) because of a disability or developmental delay. Unfortunately, the EI/ECSE budget for
2015-2017 did not provide adequate funding for the number of children who would need these services. At this point, EI/ECSE programs anticipate an additional 700 children than they were budgeted to serve. Since these programs cannot have wait lists, it is critical that EI/ECSE receive
$5.4 million to serve these children. We are also hearing positive news about potential funding for this request.
Other budget requests legislators are prioritizing include money for the 2015 fire season expenses; additional caseload dollars for Head Start; funding for Umpqua Community College repairs; and Department of Corrections improvements for treatment for people with mental illness.
The legislature is also working to build the State's reserve fund to ensure that Oregon is prepared if and when another economic downturn occurs.