Carey: Budget bill matters to southern Ohio

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Recently passed by the Ohio Senate, the state's budget bill could mean a lot to Lawrence County residents, if it stays in its current form.

Substitute House Bill 95 outlines proposed state spending for 2004 and 2005.

State Sen. Carey, R-17th District, vice-chairman of the Finance Committee, applauded the efforts to get the bill to this point.

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"I am very pleased. Any budget you can find a reason to vote for it or against it," he said via phone. "I think we did the best we possibly could, considering the situation the state is in. We got some good things in that do not cost a lot of money but mean a lot to the area."

The House of Representatives will vote today on whether or not to agree with the changes, though it is unlikely they will concur, Carey said.

If they do not, the bill will move to the Conference Committee to iron out the differences. It will then go back to both bodies to see if they agree with Conference Committee changes before being forwarded to the governor's office for final approval, Carey said.

The Senate Finance Committee has spent the past few weeks taking testimonials from state officials and everyday

citizens on the effects the budget could have on people across the state.

Coal Grove resident Les Boggs, owner of Accent Health Care Inc., went to Columbus to stress the importance of the state-funded PASSPORT program that helps keep senior citizens out of nursing homes by providing personal care and homemaking services.

"I was showing them how the PASSPORT program saves the state money and creates jobs at the same time," Boggs said last week. "It costs the state $55,000 per year to keep someone in a nursing home. It costs $12,000 to provide these in-home services through PASSPORT."

The bill fully funds the PASSPORT program, allowing more seniors to receive home-based care.

"We are extremely happy with this vote from the Senate," said Jeff Hunter, home care director for the Area Agency on Aging District 7. "We are very proud of Sen. John Carey's efforts for elders and also with Sen. Doug White's efforts in creating a bipartisan approach to the budget.

"This means our area will be able to fully open our PASSPORT program so we can add 21 elders per month that will able to qualify for this service."

With about 600 PASSPORT clients in Lawrence County at $12,000 per year, this bill could mean about $7.2 million in services to seniors in the county, Hunter said.

In a column, Carey outlined

the major points of the more than 3,000 page budget, that he believed will affect his constituents in the 17th District, which includes Lawrence County.

This bill would require that all members of the Veterans Service Commission to have served in the military so they would understand the needs and issues that veterans deal with on a daily basis.

House Bill 95 will continue to fully fund the Governor's Office of Appalachia and the Ohio University Leadership program -- giving residents of Appalachian counties more opportunities to succeed.

The budget would provide an increase of $288.9 million in funding for primary and secondary education. It also delays Head Start Plus to ensure better service, and provides funding to STARS (Seniors Teaching and Reaching Students) "to allow our students access to the wealth of information our seniors can provide," Carey said.

Addressing another area of concern, the bill would provide funding for Ohio's state park system so they will not have to implement additional fees to operate.

The bill also provides funding to the Ohio Historical Society, which leaders had said would have to close particular sites across the state if enough funds were not allocated.

"Although these items may not seem like much to everyone across the state, these services and programs are essential to many in the 17th District," Carey said in his release. "I certainly want to thank all of you who have voiced your concerns during this budget process, and I certainly look forward to hearing from many more of you."