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Ohio lawmakers fail to grasp big picture

Ohio's legislators basically balanced the budget by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Well, it was actually more like the lawmakers said they don't care if "Peter" has cancer, as long as "Paul" doesn't have to make any tough decisions.

Instead of looking for a real solution to the budget problem and cutting expenses, a joint House-Senate committee took the easy way out by draining the $216 million fund created by the state's settlement with major tobacco companies that was designed to promote anti-smoking and smoking cessation initiatives.

Instead, the money will be used to keep the state's multi-billion dollar school construction program going strong. This may be a worthy cause but once again, legislators continue to only look at the fire in front of them instead of the inferno down the road ahead.

What good will new schools do if Ohio's tobacco use and cancer rates continue to skyrocket? The Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund was set aside for a specific purpose but lawmakers have chosen to ignore that goal.

Lobbyists for the American Cancer Society contend this latest fleecing comes hot on the heels of lawmakers using $352 million in tobacco payments during the past three years just to keep the budget balanced.

So what happens when this money runs out? Where will our elected officials "steal" the money from then. Just like two-years ago, the lawmakers continue to put Band-Aids on a gaping wound.

Until we get our state to the hospital and start thinking about treating the sickness not the symptoms, this type of budgeting will continue to be the rule of the day.

House and Senate lawmakers approved the budget Tuesday and sent it to Gov. Bob Taft, who must sign it into law by July 1. We urge Taft to veto the plan. While it does update the archaic tax system and implement a half-cent reduction to the state income tax, it doesn't look far enough ahead.

Every voter and taxpayer in Ohio must urge their elected leaders to look at the big picture before our future goes up in smoke just like that tobacco money.