Oregon state revenue collections continue to decline.
The November revenue forecast was about $300 million
less than the amount predicted to be available at the
end of last June. We fully expect that the next revenue
forecast in February will predict further reductions.
The primary causes of the decline in revenue are our
stagnant economy as well as our ongoing high rates of
unemployment and underemployment. Tax revenue is sharply
down because businesses are not making as much taxable
profit and fewer employees are paying taxes on their
wages. In fact, for the past two two-year budget
periods, the actual amount of General Fund and Lottery
revenue available to spend has decreased.
At the same time the cost of paying state employees will
increase by about 7 Ĺ percent during this budget period.
When we add inflationary costs, increased debt service
on borrowed money plus the expense of expanded case
loads the cost of maintaining current state services
will swell by about 12 percent.
This sobering reality will result in Oregon state
legislators searching for ways to reduce the cost of
state government during the upcoming February
Legislative Assembly. It is readily apparent that there
simply will not be enough money available to continue
all programs and services at their current levels. I
believe that we must thoughtfully prioritize those
programs and services. We then must drastically curtail
or eliminate the services and programs determined to be
the least important.
In my opinion, the cost of state advertising and
communications is one area of spending that is ripe for
reductions. A recent investigative report by the
Oregonian newspaper determined that Oregon employs at
least 220 public affairs specialists, design shop
employees, and communications and public relations
managers. The cost of their combined biennial salaries
and benefits approach $40 million.
For instance, the Department of Human Services (DHS) was
divided into two agencies in a cost reducing effort in
2009. At that time the agency had 16 advertising and
communications employees. Two years later the two
smaller agencies, DHS and the Oregon Health Authority,
have more than doubled their communications staff to 39
Moreover, Oregonís top nine state agencies are scheduled
to pay outside consultants about another $40 million
during this biennium for public outreach and advertising
campaigns. For example, the Department of Transportation
employs 22 people devoted to communications. Yet the
agency claims to not have the expertise or industry
contacts to perform its advertizing and communication
needs. It routinely pays outside consultants well more
than $100 per hour for outside creative direction, media
purchases and copywriting. A single five year traffic
safety advertising campaign will cost the agency $5
It seems that we may be paying both state employees and
private company staff tens of millions of dollars to
perform essentially the same tasks. Further, where is
the wisdom in advertizing for greater public
participation in programs that current budget
constraints prevent maintaining at current service
Oregon agencies produce and publish myriad magazines,
pamphlets, brochures, catalogs and other outreach
periodicals. These publications are usually printed on
the highest quality paper with magnificent multicolor
graphic design and extensive photography. The purpose
for many of these periodicals is often not clear. We do
not know who or how many people actually read the
material. We often do not know what the agencies are
trying to accomplish through their publications or
whether they are achieving that purpose. Moreover, we
often do not know the cost of developing, publishing and
distributing this material. We do know that the cost is
significant and amounts to tens of million dollars.
The Oregonian report did not focus on the additional
substantial cost of state sponsored radio and
televisions advertising. Hardly an hour passes when we
are not exposed to some form of media advertisement
promoting some government program, service or social
position. Media advertising is expensive. The prime time
hours when we often hear and see these advertisements
are very costly.
Most egregious, the Department of Administrative
Services that is charged with the responsibility of
accounting for government costs admits that it has no
current means of accurately accounting for or
quantifying the costs of state government advertising
The Oregonian used multiple public records requests and
their own investigative skills to estimate those costs
in nine state agencies. Oregon has more than 60 state
agencies, boards and commissions that all have some
advertizing, outreach and communications roles.
The fact of the matter is that we have no idea how much
the state actually spends on these activities. Further,
we have no current means of measuring the benefits
derived from those expenditures.
Our Ways and Means General Government Subcommittee is
working with the Department of Administrative Services
in a concerted bipartisan effort to find the answers.
Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon
no one will.