This week Governor Kitzhaber released a recommended state budget to lawmakers. It lays out a plan for taking our state through the next two years of these difficult times and creates a vision and foundation upon which to build for the next decade. This is the first step in the budget process for the 2011 legislative session. Now lawmakers will go through the budget and hold hearings to gather more information on the budget's details for all state agencies. Leaders from DHS and OHA have been working closely with the Governor's budget teams, and we will work closely with lawmakers to provide them with the information they need for a final, balanced state budget.
We won't have that final budget for several months, but we know that for DHS and OHA clients and providers, the state's financial reality means that there will be some reductions in services and payments. I know that will be difficult, particularly for those who have been struggling in this economy.
The Governor's budget starts with the dollars we have rather than projected need over the next two years. After two years of recession and incremental budget cuts, that gives us a very clear picture of the budget situation. You can find more details on the agency Web sites about the proposed DHS budget and the proposed OHA budget.
More importantly, the Governor's budget begins the process of transforming our state's approach to health and human services. Facing a stark fiscal reality, the Governor has outlined a number of steps to change how we collectively do our work and how we can create a system that provides the outcomes and value that all Oregonians should have.
At DHS, over the past several years we have been working to focus on early investments that prevent a need for more expensive care. We know that's the most effective and cost-efficient approach -- and it's better for individuals and families. Whether it's helping seniors avoid unnecessary nursing home care or children and families to avoid foster care, we have demonstrated that this approach works. Governor Kitzhaber's budget supports that effort and marks an important step toward shifting state spending from addressing problems after they've developed to preventing them in the first place for greater long-term stability.
At OHA, we have been working on plans to lower health care costs, improve the quality of care, and improve the health of everyone in our state. The budget situation and the loss of one-time federal funds for Medicaid has created a situation so serious that the Governor and Oregon Health Policy Board have convened a team of people to redesign the health care system for those same goals, in order to avoid deeper cuts to the Oregon Health Plan in the future. That work has begun and recommendations will be delivered to Governor Kitzhaber, the Legislature and the Oregon Health Policy Board by April. More on that in future weeks.
There will also be much more information to come about the Governor's budget, proposals in the Legislature, and the effect on our clients and services. Again, this week marks only the first step. The path ahead is going to be difficult but I am confident that the work we have done over the past several years has positioned us to face these challenges head on and create a better and more stable health and human services system.
With his budget, Governor Kitzhaber also sent a special message to state workers:
"I know this budget comes at a time when many people in the state have been affected by the recession, including state workers. I want to express my gratitude to you for continuing to serve the people of Oregon through some very difficult times. You have been asked to meet increased demand at the same time hiring freezes and furlough days have meant everyone is carrying a greater workload. Yet I also know from the conversations I have had with frontline workers that you continue to be dedicated to your work and to the state."
I want to reinforce that message and express my deep appreciation for the work that you do. I and the other leaders at DHS and OHA will keep you informed every step of the way in the budget process.