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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Advance Education Budget

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network

Oregon lawmakers are moving forward with a key piece of the upcoming state spending plan. A legislative budget panel Thursday approved an $8.2 billion budget for K-12 schools.

It would be an increase over the previous spending plan, but education groups say it falls short of what's needed to avoid teacher layoffs and cuts to school days. The panel approved the proposal after majority Democrats removed one of their members who threatened to vote "no."

First-year Rep. Diego Hernandez said he just couldn't bear to vote for an education budget that he said would harm students.

"I definitely did not want to offend any of my colleagues by making that decision,” he said. “But on the other hand, I also am proud to stand up and make a statement and say that we do need to do more."

Hernandez said he wants to see lawmakers approve a plan to overhaul corporate taxes as a way to funnel more dollars to education. Those discussions are underway at the Oregon capitol, but a key business group said it was unlikely to support any major changes this legislative session.