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State agencies in cross hairs

Police are pink-slipped, jails are shut down, and schools slice entire days off their calendars.

A debate rages throughout the state over the possible elimination of such crucial services.

Some have suggested that budget cuts can be made in a way that softens reductions in crucial services. Rather than proportionate cutbacks across the board, they propose what might be called a surgical approach: Excise programs unnecessary to the survival of the patient in order to protect the heart and soul of public service Ñ things such as education and law enforcement.

But opponents argue that promising painless cuts is irresponsible, and that many of the suggested cuts would not save enough money to bridge the staggering gap in next biennium's budget Ñ or would sabotage long-term approaches to Oregon's economic recovery.

Nevertheless, drums continue to pound for the elimination of particular departments. Common targets include the state's motor pool, which buys and maintains vehicles for state employees' use; the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which dispenses and regulates alcoholic beverages; and the Economic and Community Development Department, which sponsors programs to aid business.

In the next two weeks, the Tribune will look at the cost and missions of these departments and how they compare with those of other states.

Ñ Lisa Baker