LEWISTON – In tough economic times, it doesn’t make sense to cut funding to programs that get the unemployed back into the workforce, state Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said this week.

“We have record numbers of people who recently lost their jobs and are turning to adult education for help,” Rotundo said during a Legislative Appropriations Committee meeting Thursday.

“Doesn’t it make sense to keep those programs funded as much as possible and find other areas in which we can cut?” she said Friday.

Gov. John Baldacci this week announced more than $300,000 in cuts to adult education programs as part of his plan to cut about $80 million in state spending. State economic forecasters estimate about $150 million in cuts will be necessary to help balance the budget for the current fiscal year.

Eva Giles, director of Lewiston Adult Education, said it was too early to tell what the impact of the cuts would be.

“We know we will receive cuts in at least two areas, but they haven’t even determined how they are going to be distributed,” she said.

A $278,000 cut in general subsidy is about 5 percent of the overall state funding for adult education, Giles estimated. It is also deep enough to jeopardize federal funding for the program.

The cut would take the state contribution below what’s required for federal funding, which means the program also could lose part of its federal contribution.

The other area to be cut funds the college transition and literacy volunteer programs, which face a loss of $48,000.

The cuts are ill-timed because interest in adult education programs is on the rise, Giles said.

“We’ve seen a 12 percent increase in enrollment in our academic and vocational programming,” she said. “Historically, during tough economic times, we typically see an increase in adult education needs.”

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