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Advocates, students urge no cuts.

Byline: MATT COOPER The Register-Guard

Single mothers and public school students tried to pressure the Legislature on Monday not to cut favored programs as lawmakers convened a special session in Salem to balance the state's 2001-03 budget.

Kitty Piercy, a former state representative who is chairwoman of the Lane County Commission on Children and Families, said during a morning news conference outside the county courthouse that legislators seem determined to balance the budget on the backs of small children, babies and mothers.

Programs planned to be cut or eliminated include nurseries that reduce child abuse and others that provide parenting skills, early intervention for potentially violent children and care for babies of parents who abuse drugs, Piercy said.

She urged lawmakers to take "careful consideration (of) the vulnerable populations statewide and in the community," and added that officials at affected agencies were also appealing to their legislators for support.

Christi Wells, a peer counselor and former client of the Eugene Relief Nursery, credited the agency with nothing less than saving her family.

"If services like these are gone, kids don't have a chance," she said. "And it's going to cost so much more money after these kids are in the (penal) system."

Meanwhile, students from Eugene-area high schools and about 60 Roosevelt Middle School students spent the day in Salem petitioning lawmakers for reliable state school funding.

During breaks in Monday's proceedings, Roosevelt student leaders told Lane County legislators that, in light of school funding shortages, they had agreed to use $9,000 they had earned from selling magazines to pay for part of a teaching position rather than buy equipment and pay for student trips.

"It was important to us that we make a decision that would best serve our student body - to fund smaller classroom sizes," the students wrote in a letter to the legislators. "We intend it as a purposeful example of the leadership we expect from our public, state legislators and decision makers."

The Legislature hopes to end the special session and bridge an $846 million budget shortfall by the end of the week.

Some want the budget balanced by taxing the sale of beer, wine and tobacco, a move strongly opposed by Republicans, who control the House and Senate.

State Sen. Tony Corcoran, a Cottage Grove Democrat and supporter of better school funding, said the Roosevelt students' message would likely fall on deaf ears.

"They're facing the mantra from hell," Corcoran said - ` `No new taxes.' '

Opposite Corcoran is Rep. Cedric Hayden, a Fall Creek Republican and one of the Lane County legislators who supports a smaller increase in funding for K-12 education.

Schools would still get 98 percent of the funding proposed during the last regular session, Hayden said. He added that he has voted for the so-called "sin taxes" before but sees no support for increasing them again during the special session.

"Taxes are just not part of the program," he said. "I don't think it's going to come up on the floor."

Rep. Vicki Walker, a Eugene Democrat, said the majority of constituents e-mailing her favor increasing taxes for schools, and she'd like to see the issue put on the ballot.

"It's more prudent if we just put it out to the people to decide what they want to do," she said.

CAPTION(S):

CHRIS PIETSCH / The Register-Guard Lane County Commissioner Bill Dwyer and former legislator Kitty Piercy assailed some possible cuts.
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Title Annotation:Budget: Lawmakers hear pleas for schools and social service programs.; Legislature
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 26, 2002
Words:569
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