Hood River County schools will regain $219,000

Hood River’s state legislators are recovering from a marathon session to overcome an $860 million deficit in Oregon’s budget.

Last Saturday both Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, and Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, spent 20 hours in Salem in a balancing act to patch up the budget without losing programs or burdening taxpayers.

Metsger was able to secure $219,000 for Hood River County schools since he insisted on $10 million of restoration in education funding before he would cast the deciding vote on the budget balancing plan.

“This will allow us to avoid additional budget cuts and undo some cuts already made,” said Jerry Sessions, school superintendent.

Metsger also worked with Sen. John Minnis, R-Wood Village, to raise another $20 million for education by leveraging two cents of a proposed 60-cent spike in the tobacco tax for bonds. Voters will decide on the cigarette tax at a special election in mid-September.

“I’ve always said that education is my number one priority. When I got the opportunity, I wanted to do everything I could to make my vote count for our schools and for children,” said Metsger.

Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, also voted to send the cigarette tax to the voters, believing they should have the final voice on any money taken out of their pockets. Both she and Metsger lobbied successfully to restore “critical” funding to the Oregon State Extension Service and the Agricultural Experiment Station, key partners with the local agricultural community.

Smith said the latest round of budget adjustments may solve some short-term problems but greater focus needs to be given by the legislature on long-term fixes for Oregon’s economy. She said this is specially so since revenue forecasts are showing that the shortfall for 2003-05 may pass the $1 billion mark.

“Hopefully we have addressed the problems facing the Hood River schools for now but we need to look for some long term answers for all of Oregon soon,” Smith said.

Smith currently serves on a House task force charged with finding ways to boost job creation and the economy, something she believes is vital since Oregon’s unemployment rate currently ranks first in the nation.

Other key components of the package the Legislature passed include:

* No increase in income taxes;

* Continued participation in the federal Economic Stimulus Package;

* Referral of a modified “rainy day” fund fro schools which will provide $150 million in immediate help. Voters will decide on the measure in September;

* A phase-in of Ballot Measure 88, which raised the amount of federal tax that citizens may deduct on their state income tax;

* Almost $30 million in selected cuts that exempt K-12 education.

In the three special sessions this year, the Legislature had to deal with a nearly $1.2 billion deficit in the 2001-03 budget.

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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

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