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State Of Crisis?

Locals join rally to protest state cuts

POLK COUNTY -- Oregon legislators face a $720 million budget shortfall.

Pat Farley of Monmouth faces a woman with kidney disease. Legislators, in an attempt to make ends meet, took away money for her to get to and from dialysis.

Then they took away money for the dialysis itself.

While legislators deal with dollars and cents, Farley said he deals with flesh and blood. He sees the faces of real people being sacrificed to budget cuts.

Farley joined about 600 people April 5 and marched from the Salem Civic Center to the Oregon State Capitol to protest state budget cuts.

The rally was organized by the Oregon Public Employees Union and Service Employees International. Many marchers were state employees.

Many, like Farley, were just concerned.

Farley works for Partnerships in Community Living in Monmouth. The private nonprofit organization serves people with developmental disabilities.

Although PCL is not a state agencies, many of its services depend on state funding.

The woman with kidney disease is not a PCL client. She is the mother of one of the clients. Farley said she gets dialysis now through a series of private acts of compassion by people simply unwilling to watch her die.

For PCL clients themselves, Farley said budget cuts literally hit home. State funding helps pay for workers in group homes.

Workers have not gotten a cost of living raise in three years. PCL pays better than most. Workers get about $9 per hour. Other agencies can't afford to pay much higher than minimum wage, said PCL Associate Director Joanne Fuhrman.

Even $9 an hour is pretty said, she said. "That's not a living wage."

PCL stands to lose about $600,000 in state funds. That will mean less vocational opporutnities and support services for PCL's clients.

Fuhrman can scarcely believe such things are happening in Oregon. The state used to be considered so progressive, she said.

"It feels like the whole infrastructure is falling apart from the inside out," she said. "It seems so short sighted."

Heather Labbe of Monmouth also works for PCL. However, she had another reason for marching -- her 10-year-old son, Mason. He attend fourth grade at Monmouth Elementary School.

School districts in Polk County, and the rest of the state, have been hit hard by budget cuts (see State of Crisis, page 8A).

Labbe, too, has trouble comprehending the size of the problem. "We've already seen such big cuts in education," she said.

Fuhrman said she's concerned about a lot more than PCL. "This is not just about us," she said.

"It's about cuts to services to the most vulnerable people in our society. We have a responsibility to take care of one another."

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