BUDGET CUTS THREATEN EXTENSION, AG PROGRAMS

November 19, 2001 11:00 pm

Northeast Oregon could take a big hit over the next year due to reductions in the budget for higher education. Not only do we have Eastern Oregon University to think about, but Oregon State Universitys Extension and agriculture and forestry research programs may sustain major hits. Oregon University System Chancellor Joe Cox wants non-academic programs to take the brunt of higher educations cuts.

The state university system needs a more equitable approach than the one proposed by Cox. Its going to be up the Legislature to make sure the 2 percent to 8 percent cuts Gov. John Kitzhaber has asked state agencies to prepare for are spread equitably. To force greater cuts on programs such as OSUs outreach arm will have substantial impact on rural areas. The squeal from the cuts might not be as loud as those that impact metro areas, but the pain will be substantial.

In the university system scenario, the worst-case scenario of 8 percent cuts would translate to 17 percent cuts for Extension and agriculture research. That would amount to nearly one-fifth of those programs.

At this point, nothings been finalized. No one knows how bad the states financial picture will be, only that revenues will not be meeting the projections used when the budget for the 2001-2003 biennium was finalized. The governor will need to call the Legislature into special session early next year to deal with the budget crisis. Decisions on what to cut wont be easy.

What is certain is that all state agencies will feel the pinch. But what agency directors and legislators must consider is what impact the cuts will have and whether some areas of the state will be more severely impacted. Extension and ag and forestry research are important to rural areas such as Northeast Oregon. If outreach programs take the brunt of higher educations cuts, rural areas will once again be the losers just as they were when the economy soared in some parts of the state and passed others by.

Outreach is important to the rural areas of Oregon.

WATCH THOSE AIR ADVISORIES

The cooler temperatures combined with higher energy prices mean that more people will be burning wood to heat their homes this winter. The move back to wood heat makes sense. But people in La Grande who are using their woodstoves need to make sure that they pay attention to and heed warnings from the citys Air Quality Program. Occasionally, inversions take place and smoke doesnt clear out of the valley. People who do not have DEQ or EPA-certified stoves are asked not be burn when the advisory is for moderate air dispersal.

The Observer publishes the air quality advisory daily in the weather report on Page 3. Most of the time the conditions are good. But occasionally the advisory falls into the moderate rating, which is when those with non-certified stoves need to stop burning unless wood is your only source of heat.

All of us who burn wood need to be keeping our eyes on the daily advisories.