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State Workers Share More Cost-Saving Ideas with OR Legislature

January 19, 2012

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon's largest state employees' union on Wednesday issued an update of its "Moving Oregon Forward" report, offering lawmakers a new batch of ideas for saving money.

Last year's report, the first by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503, included changes it said would save state government $1 billion by taking actions such as reducing the ratio of supervisors to workers in state agencies and doing a better job of collecting taxes.

This time, says union Executive Director Heather Conroy, the focus isn't on long-term strategies but on actions which could be taken this year.

"Right now, there's a lot of conversations about very serious cuts to the services that Oregonians rely on. We want to make it clear that these are choices that both the Legislature and the governor have - and they do have options available to them, other than deep cuts to services."

About half the report's suggested savings are from increasing the efficiency of state agencies and processes, while others would come from rethinking tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Conroy says the recommendations came from SEIU members.

Conroy says the first report was well-received by lawmakers of all political stripes, but she doesn't think they went far enough in adopting its recommendations.

"They passed a law saying that, beginning in 2013, the agencies need to begin to move toward those ratios. I would just say that in times like these, when we are facing dramatic cuts to services that people rely on, we do need to move faster on that recommendation."

This year's list includes taking a closer look at university staffing and salaries, improving agencies' budget projections, cracking down on Medicaid fraud and reducing the amount spent on telling others what a great place Oregon is in which to live.

"Actually, that's one that came directly from our members. When folks are taking furloughs, folks are seeing cutbacks, working without adequate staffing, they've got to wonder, why are we advertising? And is the advertising serving its purpose?"

The Moving Oregon Forward 2012 report is online at

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR