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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.

Proposed Spending Plan Includes Up To $2 Million For Malheur Occupation


The costs associated with the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are still being tallied up. They include police overtime, lodging, meals and fuel. Initial estimates show the total will easily top $1 million.

The legislative budget proposalincludes up to $2 million that will be doled out to both state and local agencies as bills come due.

Peter Buckley, the top budget writer in the Oregon House, said the long-term goal continues to be to have the federal government reimburse the state.

"We'd like them to cover most all of it since it was a federal wildlife refuge that was taken over and we don't feel it's right that Harney County should have to pay for that,” Buckley said. “Or really that the state should have to pay for that."

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said she met with U.S. Department of Justice officials last week and repeated her request for federal financial assistance. She said they were open to the idea but weren't able to give her an immediate answer.

The governor said Harney County in particular shouldn't have to bear the financial burden of dealing with the occupation.

"When a community like this did the right thing," Brown said, "They should not also have to pay the costs of the damage that happened."

The appropriation for occupation-related costs is part of more than $93 million in spending that’s in front of lawmakers. Other notable portions of the proposal:

  • $6.1 million in grants to Umpqua Community in College in Roseburg to help the school recover from an October 1, 2015 mass shooting. A gunman killed nine people before taking his own life. The money will be used to overhaul or rebuild Snyder Hall, where the shooting took place. The money will also go toward enhanced security measures on campus.
  • $2.5 million for new air pollution monitoring sites after the discovery of hazardous levels of air pollution around two glass factories in Portland. The additional monitoring sites would be around the state.
  • $23 million for increased caseload costs at the Oregon Department of Human Services.
  • $10 million for homelessness prevention services and operational costs at shelters.
  • $5.3 million for Head Start.

The plan is an adjustment to the overall two-year spending plan approved by lawmakers last summer. It also marks the final budget proposal for Rep. Buckley. The Ashland Democrat has decided to step down after his current term. Buckley has served as the top budget writer in the Oregon House since 2009, though he shared the position with Republican Dennis Richardson in 2011 when the House was evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
Over the past eight years, Buckley has presided over budgets written in lean times and more recently, an economic recovery.

"We've come out of the worst financial crisis of our state's history, and I think we've come out of it with -- and I'm totally biased on this -- but with the right priorities in place," he said.

Buckley is known as a budget wonk around the Capitol and said he often wakes up with numbers in his head. "I’m hoping those dreams stop and I can focus on something else,” he said.

Buckley said the reality hit him over the weekend when he received an email from Legislative Fiscal Officer Ken Rocco telling him that his work on the budget was done.

"And I was like, wow. I'm done." With that, Buckley broke out into a laugh.