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State-budget panel to discuss deficit



Published: Mon, June 28, 2010 @ 12:07 a.m.

SAVE $8 BILLION

The current state budget is balanced with about $8 billion in one-time money that, so far, is not available for the 2012-13 budget. This example, worth a total of $8.01 billion, illustrates the difficulty of cutting that much money.

$1.8 billion: Release about 25,000 inmates with a 50 percent cut to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

$1.36 billion: Cut main funding for higher education by 40 percent.

$1.3 billion: Cut funding for grades K-12 education by 10 percent.

$1.05 billion: Cut 50 percent of local-government and library funds.

$900 million: Cut all tax funding for the Department of Mental Health, closing seven psychiatric hospitals.

$700 million: Eliminate Medicaid optional coverage: dental, podiatry, hospice, etc.

$634 million: Cut all tax funding for the Department of Developmental Disabilities.

$210 million: Cut all tax funding for the Department of Natural Resources.

$64 million: Eliminate Department of Veterans Services.

Source: Center for Community Solutions

Note: All amounts are estimates based on spending in the current two-year budget.

By MARC KOVAC

mkovac@dixcom.com

COLUMBUS

A state-lawmaker panel that will provide recommendations for dealing with a multibillion-dollar budget hole has scheduled a first meeting, almost a year after its formation.

The Ohio Budget Planning and Management Commission will meet Tuesday and July 7 at the Statehouse to begin its discussions. They’re required to submit a report to the full Legislature and the governor in late November.

Rep. Vernon Sykes, a Democrat from Akron, and Sen. Shannon Jones, a Republican from the Cincinnati area, are heading the process.

“The national economic downturn has challenged families, businesses and state budgets all across the country,” Sykes said. “While we have made progress and continue to lay the groundwork for economic recovery, there is still difficult work ahead as we prepare for the next state budget. I am hopeful that this commission will foster a productive, bipartisan dialogue to address the very serious challenges ahead.”

Jones added, “The next state budget will be the most difficult in recent memory. I am hopeful that the commission will analyze big-picture reforms before the crunch of the traditional budget deliberations. I look forward to working with all of the members of the commission to ensure a rigorous and thoughtful examination of all state spending.”

The commission was created by lawmakers through a provision included in the last biennial budget. The six members are supposed to develop “a strategy for balancing the state budget for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

Republicans in the House and Senate have been pushing for meetings to start, offering amendments to other bills and stand-alone legislation to force the issue.

The meeting Tuesday will start at 1:30 p.m. and will include a presentation by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission on state fiscal issues.

The July 7 meeting will begin at 1 p.m. and include comments from the Office of Budget and Management and the National Conference of State Legislatures.


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