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Report: Budget cuts to geological survey wind up costing money



Published: Wed, September 26, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Burton Speakman

bspeakman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A report claims that budget cuts to the Ohio Geological Survey will create millions of dollars in unnecessary costs for government and business operating within the state.

The report from Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal nonprofit think tank, stated that between 2003 and 2012, the OGS, a branch of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, lost 74 percent of its state funding, which peaked at about $3 million a year.

Most of this reduction came between 2010 and 2012, when the Gov. John Kasich administration eliminated all general revenue-fund allocations for the division, leaving it to rely on federal funding and a much smaller stream of state funding, according to the report.

“These cuts limit our ability to understand and plan for geological and environmental hazards,” said Tim Krueger, Policy Matters research assistant and report author. “OGS has saved hundreds of millions of dollars for industry in Ohio by providing critical information that lays the groundwork for development.”

Bethany McCorkle, spokeswoman for the ODNR, said that although her office agrees the OGS office is important, it disputes some of the report’s claims.

“The budget was not cut by 74 percent,” she said. “They didn’t ask us for that; instead, they relied on a [legislative report].”

This year, ODNR has hired more geologists and purchased new equipment to help OGS conduct its research, McCorkle said. The change to removing general-fund allocations was made in 2009, before Kasich took office.

“This is an office that has been chronically underfunded in the past,” she said.

ODNR is working to correct that, although in the most recent budget, OGS will be cut from $3.1 million this year to $2.6 million in 2013, McCorkle said.

The work of the OGS is important because in many cases, it is the only agency that compiles certain types of data, Krueger said. Without the work of OGS, there would be no one to conduct sizable amounts of research because of high costs.

“I asked about why OGS doesn’t charge for-profit businesses for the research it does, but it appears they are legally limited,” he said. “The information they have collected is considered to be public information.”

The geological survey’s work saves industry and government at least $575 million a year, Krueger said, citing a study by Kleinhenz & Associates.

“These cuts are penny-wise and pound-foolish,” Krueger said. “It would be much smarter to adequately fund OGS, helping build a stronger, safer, more competitive Ohio.”


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