Budget plans out of touch with the priorities of most Oregonians

In supporting House Speaker Paul Ryan's health plan and budget, President Donald Trump and many of his Republican brethren clearly value tax cuts for the wealthy and a deregulated free-market system over health-care coverage for millions of low-income Americans.

Similarly, they put the enrichment of defense contractors and building a border wall ahead of Meals on Wheels, after-school programs and medical research.

Oregonians, however don't share this Scrooge-like philosophy.

DHM Research recently asked Oregon voters about the values they want their elected leaders to consider when putting together the state budget. Of highest importance was "protecting the most vulnerable, including children and seniors in poverty."

In another recent survey for the Oregon School Boards Association, respondents rated the importance of providing state funding for each of seven services. The highest ratings, after "public K-12 education" (78 percent) and "public safety" (58 percent), were "social services for low-income seniors" (55 percent) and "affordable health care for low-income individuals" (54 percent).

Concern about the well-being of vulnerable populations cuts across demographic groups in Oregon. Both Democrats (98 percent) and Republicans (86 percent) rate "social services for low-income seniors" important, though fewer Republicans (39 percent) view it as very important compared to Democrats (67 percent) and non-affiliated/others (56 percent). There's no urban and rural divide on social services either: at least 87 percent of Oregonians in tricounty, mid and lower Willamette Valley, and rest-of-state areas view them as important.

Findings were similar for "affordable health care for low-income individuals." Like Democrats (96 percent) and non-affiliated/others (86 percent), a majority of Republicans (71 percent) said this affordable health care service is important. But Republicans do have a larger flip side: About one-quarter (27 percent) feel affordable health care for low-income individuals is not important, which is significantly higher than 5 percent of Democrats and 10 percent of non-affiliated/others. As with social services, there were no differences by area of the state.

Other items in the president's budget are similarly out of tune with Oregonians' values.

Cutting money to help assure a clean environment is one. According to a DHM Research survey conducted in February, 64 percent of Oregon residents think the state should maintain funding for environmental protection at current levels or increase it. In this case, the president has his party behind him: 60 percent of Oregon Republicans feel the state should decrease spending on environmental protections, compared to only 5 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of non-affiliated/others. In terms of location within the state, a majority in all areas want spending to remain at the current level or be increased.

One more point of difference between the president and most Oregonians: Trump's lack of support for public broadcasting is out of sync with the feeling in our state. Almost 80 percent of Oregonians agree that "public broadcasting should get public funding to continue providing quality programming, education and news." This view, revealed in a 2015 survey, includes a strong majority of Republicans and makes sense in light of the plurality of Oregonians who feel public broadcast programming is the state's most neutral news source providing the most independent reporting.

Comparing the values reflected in the president's budget against the importance Oregonians give to the protection of vulnerable populations and the environment, and the value they assign to public broadcasting, one is left to imagine President Trump's tweet to any protestations from Oregonians: "Bah, humbug! If they'd rather die, they'd better do it and decrease the surplus population." President Scrooge?

Adam Davis is a founding principal in DHM Research, a nonpartisan firm specializing in assisting with public policy-making and communications. Visit

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