SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Hundreds of public employees asked the Oregon Legislature maintain funding for schools, prisons and workers who provide in-home care to seniors, using the Presidents Day holiday to rally at the state Capitol on Monday.
Public employee unions were joined by environmental groups, Occupy organizations and other activists in a demonstration that was more a general display of liberal discontent than a show of solidarity behind specific demands.
For Timothy Trunkey, a 42-year-old father of five from Roseburg, the goal was to preserve funding for schools, so he held a hand-written sign that stated, "children first."
"I know sometimes it's necessary to make cuts, but I'm holding this sign because this is something that they shouldn't touch," Trunkey said.
Lawmakers are contemplating steep budget cuts to make up for a $340 million shortfall in projected tax revenue. They've all but eliminated the possibility of cutting school funding but are looking at closing a prison in Salem and reducing pay and benefits for workers who provide in-home care for seniors.
Legislative budget leaders have repeatedly said that they don't want to cut funding but must ensure that the state isn't spending more money than it's collecting.
Gov. John Kitzhaber and some interest groups have asked the Legislature to spend down reserves to reduce funding cuts. Key legislators want to trim the ranks of middle management, hoping to reduce the long-term cost of government and deliver services more efficiently.
Dozens of buses brought demonstrators from around the state, many of whom congregated on the Capitol steps in a rainbow of colors corresponding to their union.
Holding a sign that said "stop the madness," Sandy Jung of Albany said she was protesting cuts to workers who care for seniors and people with disabilities — a job she's done for more than two years. Her bottom line can't take many more cuts, she said, but she's committed to continuing her work for two clients who depend on her.
"I'd probably have to move in with a family member," said Jung, 57. "I'm living paycheck to paycheck right now."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.