Senator tries to brighten grim budget report

On Friday Oregon legislators sank their teeth into a meaty budget deficit, but couldn't agree on which bites to take.

Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, made a whirlwind tour of Hood River County on Thursday to update citizens about the "angst" facing elected officials the following day.

"I do believe as difficult as this time is now, it too will pass," said Metsger during a presentation to senior citizens at Hawks Ridge Assisted Living Community in the Heights.

He said in spite of a great reluctance among the legislature, the severe budget crunch would likely bring at least some cuts to many existing programs. To prepare citizens for that grim news, Metsger toured Hood River Valley High School and Cascade Locks School and met with employees at Full Sail Brewery, which could be adversely affected by Gov. John Kitzhaber's proposed 5-cents-per-drink increase in beer taxes.

While he was making those stops, Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, was in Salem working on the Joint Interim Committee on Economic Stimulus and Public Policy to address budget-balancing issues prior to Friday's special session.

"Patti is holding down the fort while I escape from the committee today to meet with constituents from our districts," said Metsger. "I wanted to get away from Salem and let you know where we stand."

He told his Hawks Ridge audience of seniors that education, human services and public health and safety programs would probably face some level of cuts. Metsger said that move seemed inevitable, especially with news that $121 million of emergency reductions from the estimated $815 million budget shortfall last Friday were likely to be added back with a further decline in revenue projections.

He said at issue in the Feb. 8 special session would be a sharp debate between Kitzhaber and Republican leaders over whether $100 million should be borrowed from the Common School Fund, a move he believes will threaten a legacy for tomorrow's students.

However, Senate and House members of both parties contend that borrowing $100 million from the fund's $732 million principal would see Oregon through its immediate crisis -- without further burdening taxpayers during a time of high unemployment. Metsger said Democratic leaders were more in favor of borrowing that same amount of funding from the lottery-fed school endowment fund -- and there was bi-partisan agreement against raising taxes.

"Why should we institute long-term tax policies for a short-term fix?" asked Metsger.

He said there would probably be an added tax placed on cigarettes but the majority of legislators were opposed to an increase in beer and wine taxes. He said Kitzhaber's other revenue options would most likely be challenged.

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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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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