Friday, February 27, 2009

Oregon legistlature looks at raiding the Oregon Cultural Trust to make up the projected deficit

Our representatives in Salem are thinking of taking $1.8 million away from the Oregon Cultural Trust and directing those funds to other areas. I think that this is wrong and will be writing my congressman very soon about the matter. The citzens who give to the Oregon Cultural Trust intend that their donations be used by the OCT.

Here's a letter from the Oregon Council for the Humanities about the matter and some steps that you can follow to voice your opinon:

As you know, Oregon is facing one of the most significant budget shortfalls in its history. The State issued its revenue forecast on Friday. Revenue projections are now an additional $55 million over the previously announced shortfall of $800 million in the State's General Fund. Lottery revenues are also down. Legislators made a list last week that contains proposed reductions and fund sweeps for all agencies to re-balance the 2007-09 budget, assuming an $800 million hole. This represents a serious threat to state funding for culture.

Most sobering: the "funds sweep" list of Other Funds includes the recapture of $1.8 million from the permanent fund of the Oregon Cultural Trust. The $1.8 million includes $1.3 million in cultural license plate revenue generated since 2003 plus interest.

The Cultural Trust was authorized by the Legislature in 1999 to grow and stabilize funding for culture--in good times and in bad. To skim the Trust fund and reallocate cultural license plate fees for the General Fund is a violation of trust with the
buyers of the plates who assumed they were supporting Oregon culture with their purchases. To raid the fund to pay for other state services simply violates the very purpose of the Trust and the intent of the Trust's thousands of donors: to protect and invest in Oregon's cultural resources.

This situation is very serious. Not only are legislators dealing with a large revenue shortfall and the potential of an additional $55 million in cuts, there are efforts underway to hold K-12 school funding from further reductions.

I urge you to please take action in any of the following ways:

- Call your local legislators and tell him or her why the Oregon Cultural Trust needs to remain intact and taken off the fund sweep list.

- Use one of the messages on the Cultural Advocacy Coalition website to send a message directly to your legislator
Write your own message to convey the importance of cultural funding in your city, town, or county.

- Send this message to your friends and those you think may be willing to help.

Work to re-balance the state budget is proceeding very quickly and may be completed by this weekend. Weigh in with your opinion. Contact the Cultural Advocacy Coalition to send a message to your legislators NOW.

Best regards,

Cara Ungar-Gutierrez
Executive Director
Oregon Council for the Humanities

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