Oregon Starts Cutting After Tax Hike Fails

From Associated Press

The first wave of inmates was released from a county jail Wednesday as state agencies across Oregon began implementing spending cuts after voters rejected a temporary income tax hike.

"It's a party atmosphere at the jail today," said Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto as he announced the release of 31 inmates -- among 114 scheduled to be freed during the day.

The inmate release is one of the first cost-saving measures to follow the failure of Tuesday's tax-hike proposal, put on the ballot to stave off $310 million in spending cuts.

Legislative leaders met with Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Wednesday morning in Salem to discuss ways to soften the blow.

Though lawmakers will be focusing on the upcoming budget during their current session, "we will also take into account the cuts that affect the most vulnerable," said House Speaker Karen Minnis, a Republican.

Kulongoski, however, has said that he would let the cuts take effect.

Across the state, agencies and schools were preparing to implement the spending cuts.

Medical benefits are to be eliminated for 8,000 elderly and disabled people with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid or the state Health Plan, as are benefits for 4,100 disabled people getting care at their homes or in assisted-living facilities.

Mental health services are to be reduced for a total of 7,200 people.

School districts across Oregon will have to find ways to do without $95 million in state funding that would have been provided by the tax hike.

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