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Palin: Special-needs programs vital

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin pledged Friday to shift billions of dollars to programs for children with special needs and assured their families they will have a friend in the White House if she is elected.

Palin herself has a special-needs child, a son born six months ago with Down syndrome. She did not cite which federal programs might be called on to give up $45 billion over five years to meet her proposal to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

“We've got a $3 trillion budget, and Congress spends some $18 billion a year on earmarks for political pet projects,” Palin told an audience that included families with special-needs children and service providers. “That's more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good.”

However, John McCain has said that ending the use of earmarks – special funding requests placed into bills by lawmakers for back-home projects – would be a tool for balancing the budget.

Palin has criticized earmarks as a vice presidential candidate, but as governor she has requested $750 million in such special funding.

Deposition

Later Friday, Palin testified before an independent investigator about allegations she abused her powers during a long-running personnel controversy that has now distracted from her Republican vice presidential campaign.

She waved but did not speak to reporters when she arrived at a Missouri hotel for her deposition, scheduled to last two hours before a lawyer from the Alaska Personnel Board. The board is investigating whether Palin abused her powers by firing her public safety commissioner.

The commissioner claims he was dismissed because he refused to fire Palin's former brother-in-law, a state trooper involved in a messy divorce from Palin's sister. The scandal, known as “Troopergate,” took on national significance after John McCain selected Palin as his running mate.

“She's been looking forward to this day,” Palin's attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said Friday.

A legislative investigation found that Palin had every right to fire the commissioner, Walter Monegan. But the report found that Palin violated state ethics laws by trying to get her former family member kicked off the force.

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