WORK TO RESTORE RURAL PROGRAMS

June 17, 2001 11:00 pm

The Oregon Ways and Means Education Subcommittee has voted to endorse a bill that gives the states 17 community colleges a $473 million budget for the next two years.

House Bill 5051, supported by Gov. John Kitzhaber, now moves to the full committee and then to the House floor for an eventual vote. The new budget is a $37 million increase over the previous two-year amount. Another $45 million is being added to help community colleges cope with a 3 percent annual growth rate.

We have a problem with this budget proposal because it will negatively affect rural Oregonians.

HB 5051 attempts to balance the governors budget proposal by cutting two critical components of the community colleges previous budgets. These programs have helped rural residents considerably. Cut is a program for six skill centers at campuses. The centers train jobless workers and help them find employment.

Also on the chopping block are the three regional partnerships that exist between state universities and community colleges. The partnerships are valuable because they offer expanded course work to rural students.

Currently Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario and Eastern Oregon University in La Grande are operating one of these

partnerships.

What are House Speaker Mark Simmons, R-Elgin, and Senate Majority Leader David Nelson, R-Pendleton, doing to stop these cuts? None of these programs cost much money, yet both provide valuable opportunities for Oregonians in Simmons and Nelsons districts.

Rural Oregonians have been left behind over the past decade, as urban Oregonians have benefitted from growth in wages and job opportunities. The programs, now slated for elimination, have helped many rural Oregonians improve their lot in life.

The governor is willing to betray rural Oregonians by sacrificing these programs because he wants to divert funds to the Oregon Health Plan and his proposed Childrens Agenda. So far we have seen very little help from either Simmons or Nelson to save these programs. Worthy programs like these should not be discarded to placate the governor.

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