Home Opinion Editorials OSU cuts don't pencil
OSU cuts don't pencil
Gov. John Kitzhaber, to his credit, has not downplayed the severity of the state’s fiscal crisis.
He’s urging the Legislature to cut spending on a variety of important but expensive programs — including the Oregon Health Plan, which Kitzhaber was instrumental in creating.
We don’t see the logic, though, in another of the governor’s cost-cutting proposals.
Kitzhaber’s budget calls for trimming $20 million from Oregon State University’s Extension Service, and forest and agriculture research stations.
The calculus of this idea just doesn’t pencil out.
For one thing, $20 million is a pittance in a $14.5 billion budget.
For another, the governor’s proposed cuts directly affect agriculture, one of Oregon’s biggest and most profitable industries.
About 234,000 people work in agriculture. The industry produces more than $4 billion in products annually — about 12 percent of the state’s total.
OSU, and in particular its network of agriculture research stations, is a key contributor to the industry.
Experiments at those stations have helped Oregon farmers and ranchers run their businesses more efficiently and with less effect on the environment.
And lest you think this amounts to corporate welfare, consider that fewer than 2 percent of Oregon’s farms and ranches are non-family-owned corporations. We’re talking about your neighbors, not Archer Daniels Midland.
Kitzhaber’s $20 million cut would force OSU to close or consolidate five of its 13 research stations, which work in fields as disparate as dryland farming and seafood harvesting.
The cut would also eliminate more than 60 jobs, including 24 OSU professors.
Kitzhaber’s plan also would necessitate reductions in services in OSU Extension offices in each of Oregon’s 36 counties.
The Extension Service not only helps farmers and ranchers, it also offers youth programs and master gardener classes.
OSU officials say they could absorb an $8 million cut, with no drastic effects, through various efficiency measures. The issue, then, is $12 million, not $20 million.
The state can save considerably more by requiring state employees to pay a small percentage of their medical insurance premiums or their retirement plan contribution.
Better that than potentially harming an industry that puts billions in taxes into the state’s coffers each year.