SALEM - The Oregon Senate approved a $5.8 billion school-funding plan Friday, pushing the Legislature closer to a stand off with Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
The Senate voted 21-6 for a budget that gives the K-12 system $5.8 billion with the possibility of another $200 million in 2010 should economic conditions improve.
The governor has threatened to veto the measure if it passes the House, where a vote is likely Monday.
Kulongoski has said he would rather see a $5.6 billion budget with a possible $400 million available later. Legislative leadership says that leaves too much uncertainty for educators, meaning cutting more teaching positions and school days than may be necessary.
At issue is whether the Democratic leadership in the Legislature is being too optimistic about how well the economy will do in 2010 and whether $733 million in new taxes will stick. Republican activists have threatened to refer the revenue package to voters, where it could fail.
All of this makes the governor hesitant to deplete the reserves; he'd like to see a $700 million cushion whereas the plan passed Friday leaves just $500 million.
Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli seemed to agree with the governor that the plan was too unstable given the economic reality.
"This budget is risky. It's a very risky budget," Ferrioli said. "The size of the tax increases makes it vulnerable to referral or initiative.
"It just subjects the folks in education ... to just too much uncertainty."
Still, based on the vote count Friday, it looks like there's little chance the plan will change. Both houses appear to have the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.
A handful of Republicans who voted against the package took the opposite track. The plan, they said, didn't go far enough.
"I hold the education of young Oregonians to the highest priority," said Sen. Chris Telfer, R-Bend. "I dont think were funding the schools enough."
Instead, Telfer said, the Legislature should consider a Republican budget alternative that funds schools without raising taxes. "I think our back-to-basics budget has shown we can fully fund the schools and do it without new taxes."
Democrats have called that plan unrealistic.