Governor promises 4-H'ers that cuts won't be made
Some members of Saline County 4-H clubs may have pulled off what professional lobbyists find difficult.
Members of the Dungaree Dudes and Dolls and the Lads and Lassies 4-H clubs extracted a promise from Gov. Rod Blagojevich by buttonholing him after the news conference announcing the relocation of the Division of Traffic Safety to Harrisburg.
"No matter what we do, we'll take care of 4-H," Blagojevich said.
The 4-H programs are among the $1.5 billion in budget cuts Governor Rod Blagojevich has threatened if legislators don't trim back the budget they have proposed. Last year, the funding for 29 youth educators, including the educator in Saline County, was cut.
This year, there was a possibility $5 million the state allocated to match local county board money could be cut.
"We want 4-H to have the funding restored. It might get completely cut," member Cassi Watkins said, prior to her brief audience with the governor.
Watkins, 13, and Katelyn Mangels, 12, caught up with the governor after his speech and he promised them 4-H will not be cut in this year's budget, despite the possible shortfalls.
"The money is in there; the funding is there," Blagojevich said.
Mangels pressed Blagojevich about making sure money is in the budget for youth educators like Christine Hill, whose job in the Saline County Extension Service is on the line.
An aide to the governor, Russell Breckenridge, said he would work with Mangels and do everything he can to make sure jobs like Hill's are saved.
"He said he'd work with us to get Christine's job back," Mangels said.
That was music to their ears and they reported the good news back to their fellow club members.
"You should tell all your friends you saved the 4-H money," Blagojevich said.
If Blagojevich remains true to his word, all 4-Hers and their parents should breathe a little easier about the clubs for next year.
"I think it helps us become better adults by learning skills," Kara Mallady said.
Toni Mangels, Katelyn's mother, is pleased with her daughter's work on behalf of 4-H and the youth educator funding.
"I am glad she's learned this at such an early age. I think it is good for children to know they can make a difference," Toni Mangels said.
Katelyn Mangels went to a press conference hosted by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn in Springfield in April when there was a question whether a portion of this year's funding would be released. It was released on the same week as Mangels' visit.
"I was glad to hear about the funding for 4-H this year, but we won't have it for next year unless we have the funding restored again. I'm excited to get on with 4-H this year and go ahead with my projects," Mangels said.
"I hope we get a bill signed next year so we can go ahead with 4-H."
Club leader Linda Watkins said 4-H leaders have been writing postcards and sending pictures to Blagojevich.
"We are trying to let him know we support 4-H and we hope he will," Watkins said.
"These kids are our future and if adults don't support our kids, there is not going to be much of a future."
Assistant leader Susan Mallady said 4-H creates our community leaders.
"We hear complaining about not having community leaders, people who will step up and take control. That's what these kids are learning," Mallady said.
They learn how to conduct meetings according to parliamentary procedure, perform 15 to 20 community projects a year and the leaders see them change.
"We have seen changes in these guys from a very young age turning into mature, responsible kids who will turn into the leaders of our community," Watkins said.
Harrisburg Daily Register