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Will state lawmakers rise to the $8 billion challenge?



Published: Tue, June 29, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

If past is prologue, then Ohioans can hold out little hope of substantive results from a state panel charged with crafting ways to close a gargantuan deficit gap in the next biennial budget.

After all, it has taken nearly one full year for members of the Ohio Budget Planning and Management Commission — a panel of three Democratic and three Republican legislators — to muster up the intestinal fortitude to even gather together today for their first meeting — and then only after considerable poking and prodding from fellow lawmakers and others.

Though not excusable, the hesitancy is somewhat understandable. Commission members face the Herculean and unenviable task of carving out an estimated $8 billion to balance the 2012-13 state budget that takes effect July 1, 2011.

According to the Cleveland-based Center for Community Solutions, a social-service research tank, once all economic and policy factors are considered, the deficit for the next budget will be $6 billion to $7 billion. But some Statehouse Republicans say it will be closer to $8 billion.

Stark reality

That amount equals 20 percent of all state spending, which means commission members must come to grips with the reality that draconian cost-cutting and/or revenue-building initiatives must be on the table from the outset. As the center points out in its report to the commission, $8 billion in savings won’t be achieved easily.

Considering that laying off all 58,000 state workers would save only $4 billion over two years and freeing 25,000 prison inmates would wipe away only $1.8 billion in red ink, the challenge becomes starkly clear.

But it is a challenge that commission members and all legislators must embrace. Too many vital state-supported services hang in the balance.

As State Sen. Shannon Jones, a Republican from the Cincinnati area and co-chairman of the commission, aptly advises her colleagues, “I am hopeful that the commission will analyze big-picture reforms before the crunch of the traditional budget deliberations.”

The big-picture ideas presented by Community Solutions serve as a viable starting point.

The sooner public schools know how much of a hit they will take in basic-aid reductions and the sooner state residents know how much of a jolt potential tax increases will pound them, the better. Waiting until the eleventh hour next spring to make the difficult choices will only aggravate what promises to be a painful remedy.

Commission members must also pay heed to State Rep. Vernon Sykes, a Democrat from Akron and the commission’s other co-chairman: “I am hopeful that this commission will foster a productive, bipartisan dialogue.”

Politics over policy

On both the state and federal levels, 2010 has emerged as a year of maximum partisan politicking that has produced minimal meaningful policy making. The charge of the commission is far too grave to permit inter-party strife and political one-upmanship to deter progress.

On the positive side, however, if commission members knuckle down now and work diligently throughout the summer and early fall, there is a sliver of hope that meaningful budgetary reforms can be studied and recommended to the governor by the November deadline. That would still give the governor and the state Legislature more time than usual to hammer out the details and produce a final budget that responsibly balances state spending without strangling essential state services or looting weary taxpayers’ pocketbooks.


Comments

1repeaters(191 comments)posted 4 years ago

'The sooner public schools know how much of a hit they will take in basic-aid reductions and the sooner state residents know how much of a jolt potential tax increases will pound them, the better. Waiting until the eleventh hour next spring to make the difficult choices will only aggravate what promises to be a painful remedy'

So tell us oh great newspaper...Exactly when does taxing residents beyond their ability to pay that tax...make a community, state, or a country better????

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2PXGhost(51 comments)posted 4 years ago

@repeaters - It doesn't... But the longer you wait, the more money that is needed in a shorter period of time to make up for the shortfall. The sooner a tax increase is enacted, the less, per pay period, they will need to tax (even though in the long term you will pay just as much).

No one likes high taxes, but let's face it: With the idiots we have in control now, It's likely...

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years ago

Government workers, their salaries and pensions have to be cut and cut hard for any savings to realistically start curing the ills of this state. Until that happens, it doesn't matter how high the taxes become.

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4palbubba(664 comments)posted 4 years ago

Cuts need to be swift and deep. If it takes a year to scheduule a meeting how long do you think it will take to make any cuts? The cuts need to be on the government workers and their benefits. Programs costing tax payers to subsidize those who haven't earned anything should be next. Those programs that cost tax payers to provide services to those who earned them (veterans, etc.) should be the last to be cut. Any tax increase can and should be avoided. After all isn't all this gambling and lotteries SUPPOSED to be such a windfall of income?

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5HaydenThomas(208 comments)posted 4 years ago

The time has come for public sector workers to bite the bullet. Their pensions and health care have caused most states to be in the same financial condition as Ohio, bankrupt. Raising taxes will only cause continued decline in jobs and population exodus.

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