Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski vetoed the state’s $6 billion education appropriation for the next two years, saying lawmakers of his own party had appropriated too much from the state’s reserve funds.

Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislative Assembly, planned to spend $5.8 billion on education from current funds and $200 million from the rainy-day fund in the 2009-11 biennium. The governor, also a Democrat, said the state needs to save the reserves in case the economy continues to slow.

“At this time of great economic uncertainty, I cannot support any bill that reduces our reserves to a level that puts the economic and financial stability of our state at risk,” Kulongoski said in his veto letter.

Oregon’s unemployment rate jumped to 12.4% in May, the second highest in the nation after Michigan, and the state economist has repeatedly shaved revenue forecasts for the current and upcoming bienniums, forcing budget revisions.

Both the governor and legislators expect to spend that money over the upcoming biennium, and both want to spend $6 billion on education. The difference is that the legislature wants to appropriate more reserves now, and the governor wants to maintain the reserves until lawmakers return to session in February 2010, when the state will know more about its revenues for the biennium.

“I do not want to be in a position of giving a false sense of certainty to our schools only to be forced to take it away when the legislature reconvenes in 2010,” Kulongoski said.

Lawmakers in the Senate tried to override the veto Wednesday, but they were one vote shy of the required two-thirds margin. 

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