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Controversial Sex-Ed Website Comes Under Fire In Budget Debate

BOSTON — House lawmakers continued the budget debate Tuesday. The agenda included amendments on transportation and environmental issues, but a controversial website also got some attention.

About two dozen lawmakers, mostly Republicans but some Democrats, called on on Gov. Deval Patrick to pull down controversial sex education website Maria Talks.

Lawmakers said the site, funded in part by state money, promotes abortion and instructs teens how to avoid parental involvement when deciding what to do when pregnant.

Rep. Elizabeth Poirier said the state should not be spending taxpayer dollars on the site.

“We are not in the business of telling our children how to have sex,” Poirier said, “how to work around their parents morals and values.”

The Department of Health defended the site in a statement released Tuesday and said that they are open to dialogue with concerned legislators:

The goal of the Department of Public Health is to ensure that medically accurate health information continues to be available and accessible to individuals across the Commonwealth, and we believe that this website hosted by the AIDS Action Committee is an important tool to help us do just that. We understand that some members of the legislature have some concerns about the presentation and content of the Maria Talks website, and we are eager to meet with them over the next few days to listen to their concerns and understand what steps, if any, should be taken to improve upon its content.

The site is run by the AIDS Action Committee, which receives state funding. Supporters of the site say it educates teens about sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

During Monday’s debate, lawmakers defeated a Republican-backed amendment to cut the state’s 5.3 percent income tax to 5 percent over a three-year period beginning July 1, 2012. It was a move that was approved by voters 11 years ago, but never implemented. Republican Paul Frost of Auburn said doing so would boost the economy by putting money in taxpayer’s pockets.

“They can spend that on increased gasoline prices, they can spend that on going on vacation, they can spend that on buying something at the store or going out to eat. All of which we already have a tax on,” Frost said.

A proposal to reduce the 6.25 percent sales tax was also defeated.

Democratic House leaders say the budget trims spending and dips deeper into the state’s reserve fund. It also offers local communities relief from soaring municipal health insurance costs at the expense of some union collective bargaining rights.

The spending plan, which includes no new taxes, is designed to bridge what’s been estimated as a nearly $2 billion structural gap between revenues and spending levels in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Associated Press and WBUR’s Steve Brown contributed to this report.

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