- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A Democratic budget for Oregon schools is headed for votes in the full House and Senate, likely next week, after the Ways and Means Committee approved the $7.3 billion spending plan in a party-line vote on Thursday.

The two-year budget proposal would be a 9 percent increase in state aid for schools.

The budget has raised sharply differing predictions about its impact. Republicans and education interests say it fails to keep pace with rising costs and will force many school districts to slash spending. Democrats say their budget isn’t ideal, but it would provide enough money for nearly all school districts to keep their current staffing and service levels.

The Democrats promised to devote a portion of any new revenue to schools.

“This budget is built upon the extra billion dollars that we put into last year’s budget,” said Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland. “So yeah, the growth is relatively small, and I hope we can find more. But remember we’re building on the mountain we built last year.”

The debate has made for unusual allies. Education interests, which are among the top supporters of Democratic campaigns, are seeing their cause championed by Republicans saying other areas of the budget should be reduced to pump more cash into schools.

“For me, I think our priority needs to be putting as much money as possible into kids, and I think if we took a hard look at how we allocate our dollars we could do that,” said Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner.

Republicans have accused Democrats of intentionally underfunding schools in order to create a justification for raising taxes down the road, a charge that Democrats reject.

Oregon schools get the majority of their money from the state General Fund and lottery.

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