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Buehler wants $50 million to help fix Oregon foster care

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 6, 2018

Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. – A state official will request $50 million from the Oregon Legislature to help fix issues within Oregon’s child welfare agency.

Republican State Rep. Knute Buehler said he will introduce the proposal for a “rapid-improvement team” to quickly implement recommendations to fix the agency as an amendment to existing legislation. Buehler says he has not selected a bill to amend, but several could be used, the Statesman Journal reported .

Buehler is running for governor. If he wins the Republican primary, he will face Gov. Kate Brown in November.

A campaign adviser for Brown argued Buehler is only paying attention to the foster care crisis because it’s an election year.

The purpose of the proposed “rapid-improvement team” will be “to immediately stabilize the foster care program,” Buehler said.

Buehler proposed raising more revenue to fund his team, saying the cigarette tax could be increased. His office said the Legislative Fiscal Office projected $50 million should pay for about 270 new child welfare staff members.

Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University in Forest Grove, said the proposal “looks like election-year posturing.”

“The odds of this gaining any traction are pretty low, especially since Buehler just announced it,” Moore said. “There did not seem to be any groundwork with his fellow legislators from either party.”

Buehler’s request comes less than a week after the Oregon Secretary of State released a scathing audit showing the state Department of Human Services continues to face chronic understaffing in its child welfare program, with staff members also facing “bullying” and “intimidation” by agency leaders.

Buehler said he will speak with officials about his proposal in the coming weeks.

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