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Senate working with limited resources in budget

As I sit in my office answering emails, there are many constituencies from across Ohio asking for more money for various government programs in House Bill 1 — the state operating budget for fiscal years 2010-2011.

Some of these programs, if not most, are worthwhile and have good people working for them who are dedicated to serving Ohioans.

However, the reality is that because of declining state tax revenues, the Senate was handed a budget by the Ohio House last month that is at least $1 billion in the red, and as a result, there is simply not enough money to fund all these good causes.

Ohio, unlike the federal government, is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget.

One of the things that I have learned in my years on the Senate Finance & Financial Institutions Committee is that the state could spend every dime of every dollar that every Ohioan makes on a good cause.

But, obviously, there is a limit on the burden that taxpayers are willing to carry.

At a time when many Ohio families are struggling to pay their bills and meet other basic needs, it would be unwise to add to that financial burden by not making the tough choices necessary to balance Ohio’s budget.

The Senate Finance Committee continued public hearings on HB 1 this past week, listening to testimony from dozens of advocates for education, health care and other government programs and services.

Many of these groups are asking for funding increases in HB 1 that total hundreds of millions of dollars. Unfortunately, I do not see a path where that is possible without a damaging tax increase on Ohio families.

I can tell you that there are things that I have worked on as a legislator, and I strongly believe in, which will probably be cut in HB 1.

Am I disappointed? Yes, but the job of the Legislature is to pass a budget that is balanced with the resources that Ohio taxpayers have given us.

While there are some good things in HB 1, this will not be a budget where I will be able to do a press release with a lot of positive news.

The Senate is going to have to make some tough choices in the coming days, which may not be popular with some advocates, to ensure the bill is balanced.

Faced with so many difficult decisions, it would be easy to vote no on HB 1 and let others take the responsibility for funding state government. But when my colleagues and I are done preparing the bill, I will support it, because I believe it will put Ohio on a path toward a brighter future.

The Senate spending plan will not place an added burden on Ohio taxpayers, and it will invest the state’s limited resources in things that the Legislature and the Governor have identified as top priorities, including medical care for the elderly and education for our children.

There are many good causes in Ohio that are deserving of financial support, but for now, the Senate must focus on crafting a fiscally-responsible, sustainable budget that takes care of our core responsibilities.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District.He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.