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Youth meet with lawmakers, get results

State funding for the 35 youth service bureaus across Indiana has been restored to House Bill 1001 and is expected to pass due in part to the lobbying efforts made by youth and adult leaders from Gerdon Youth Center in Corydon who made two trips to Indianapolis this past week to meet with lawmakers.
Youth service bureau directors were informed of the budget cut May 30, the fifth anniversary of the Gerdon Youth Center.
The local delegation was the only group from a youth service bureau to go to Indianapolis. They met with State Rep. Paul Robertson, D-Depauw, and State Rep. Dennis Oxley, D-English, last Wednesday and were assured by both legislators that the funding for youth service bureaus would be put back into the bill as a line item amendment when the bill reached the floor.
Another smaller group from Corydon went to Indianapolis Monday and lobbied 22 Republican senators and 10 Democratic senators who are to vote on the bill.
The cut in the bill which was part of an effort to balance the state budget during the special session, would have eliminated $1.25 million in funding for youth service bureaus, which would have resulted in a lose of about $35,000 to each bureau.
For Gerdon Youth Center, that would have meant a loss of about one-eighth of their annual funding and a cutback in services to youth.
Gerdon Youth Center Program Coordinator Brent Lewis, who made both trips to Indianapolis, said the Corydon group met Monday with Michael Gery, Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon’s Senate liaison. Lewis said the young people were given the chance to tell Gery what the youth center means to them and give him their suggestions for funding the youth service bureaus.
Lewis said Gery explained to the young people that the state faces a $3 billion deficit, but by raising the cigarette tax to 55 cents and capping the homestead exemption on homes costing over $1 million at $1 million, the money to fund the youth service bureaus would be there.
During a press conference conducted by State Sen. Vi Simpson, D- Bloomington, the Senate Budget Committee chair and the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, a flyer was handed out which detailed H. B. 1001. After looking at the human services part of the bill, Tina Whitaker from the Corydon group, asked Simpson if funding for the youth service bureaus had been restored.
Simpson said, “At this point, funding has been restored, but it is up to the Republican Senate to keep it there.”
Simpson complimented Whitaker on her question and the Corydon youth on their lobbying efforts.
Gerdon Youth Center Executive Director Debbie Heazlitt said, “We are very proud of our youth and the way they have handled this situation. They have shown their appreciation for the youth center and their dedication to seeing it remain here for the future.
“The young people that we took to Indianapolis did all the talking with the legislators. It was a real character-building experience for them.”
Mike Zink, 17, Palmyra, has been attending activities at Gerdon Youth Center for about 2-1/2 years and is vice president of the youth council. He said, “We couldn’t believe they cut the money for the center. It’s a good place for kids to go and has helped me to care about things and put me in the right direction.
“We met with Rep. Robertson and Rep. Oxley on Wednesday, and they reassured us the money would be put back in the budget.”
Heazlitt said Tuesday that the youth service funding is still in the bill and would, she hoped, be passed.