Monday, August 12, 2002
Both of Hood River County’s state legislators have voiced strong opposition to Gov. John Kitzhaber’s veto on Wednesday of two key budget-balancing bills.
Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, and Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, believe that Kitzhaber’s action has threatened the future of Oregon’s students by slashing $317 million from primary and secondary education — just three weeks before some schools open.
“What the governor has done is blown up the bridge just as the train is approaching,” Metsger said.
“This governor by himself has decided that he knows better than the rest of us — I don’t think he’s made the argument and this action is totally irresponsible,” Smith said.
On Wednesday evening, Kitzhaber made a televised speech to explain his veto of Senate Bill 1022, which would fund education with $267 million by doubling the first payment in the next budget period and allowing schools to borrow against it. He also vetoed House Bill 4056, which would use cigarette tax revenue to back $50 million in bonds for schools and provide a $175 million safety net if revenues continue to fall.
Officials from the Hood River County School District, Columbia Gorge Community College and Educational Service District 9 believe the only way to avoid severe budget cuts is for lawmakers to override Kitzhaber’s action. The governor is calling all legislators to a fourth special session next Friday. If the House and Senate do not overturn the vetoes, Kitzhaber said he will bring the assembly back to Salem for a fifth special session in early September to confer on his plan to send an income tax increase to voters in November.
Smith is also challenging the fiscal responsibility of having repeated special sessions that cost taxpayers about $16,755 for the first day, including mileage and printing costs, and then $8,000 for each additional day.
Immediately after Kitzhaber’s vetoes, Hood River County School District Superintendent Jerry Sessions, Dr. Pat Evenson-Brady, ESD superintendent, and Dr. Frank Toda, president of CGCC, joined other school officials across the state in the scramble to absorb the deep budget cuts that are now in effect until further notice.
Hood River schools stand to lose $1.4 million, CGCC nearly $500,000 and the ESD about $172,000 — in addition to budget reductions already enacted.
“The cuts will not change our fall schedule of classes,” said Toda. “They will not change our commitment to our community — now expanded to include annexed areas of Hood River County — but they certainly endanger the essence of comprehensive community college services to our constituents.”
Sessions said if the legislative override is unsuccessful the 10 schools in the Hood River district will add the current loss to the $1.2 million in cuts already made this year. He said the school board will meet Wednesday to discuss possible program reductions that could include elementary music classes, middle school sports and $60,000 of extra-curricular activities at the high school level.
“We’re going to be looking at all of the options but this is just not good,” said Sessions.
Evenson-Brady said the ESD, which serves both Hood River and Wasco Counties, will possibly be forced to vacate more than three professional staff positions, necessitating a reduction in services.
During his Aug. 7 speech, Kitzhaber said he vetoed the two bills because they were not “good for Oregon’s future” since they did not provide a long-term solution to budget problems.
However, Smith said the legislature never intended for the bi-partisan plan to overcome the existing $860 million deficit to be the ultimate solution. She said the consensus of the elected House and Senate bodies was to provide immediate financial help to schools and other essential programs and then take a long look at how to bring more family wage jobs to Oregon and ensure its sustainability.
“I, for one, am willing to work on solutions but the governor has initiated the largest cut in funding to our public schools since the state took over their financial backing — and we simply cannot let this kind of reckless action prevail,” said Smith.
Toda agrees that long-term action needs to be taken to solidify educational funding since the override would help schools this fiscal year, but only postpones budget challenges.
“What we really need to do in Oregon is to stabilize the education budget process. How do you run a multi-million dollar organization every year when you can’t depend on stable revenue?” he asked.
Metsger and Smith are already serving on special committees to find a cure for Oregon’s ailing economy.
During that search, they have vowed to guard funding for the youth, elderly and disabled populations.
“In good economic times some of the governor’s actions would have been good, but these are unusual times and you have to take unusual steps to protect Oregon’s most vulnerable populations,” said Metsger.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge