State budget example of trying to do more with less

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, January 29, 2011

I have always been one to enjoy a challenge, but the decisions awaiting our state during this year’s budget process are not the kind I like to make.

Regardless, the budget work has started. As your state representative, I am going to work hard at crafting a budget in which the families of this district can get the most for their hard-earned money — which will require Ohio to do more with less.

According to the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission, our tax revenues declined a total of 17 percent during FY 2009 and FY 2010. Those revenues have now stabilized and are increasing at a very modest rate.

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In other words we have less money coming in, yet must deal with a painful $8 billion dollar budget hole that was largely caused by using federal stimulus money during the last budgeting process.

This reliance on federal dollars postponed the difficult decisions that should have been addressed during the previous budget, and now the current governor and General Assembly face an even more difficult budget than before.

Some budget cuts were made last time around, such as to education, local governments and state agencies — including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the legislature, which are both operating back to spending levels of more than a decade ago. In fact, Ohio’s legislature ranks near the bottom as far as spending per capita in the country. It has done this by reducing staff and using technology, along with other cost-saving measures.

This year, changes will be made in how things are done in this state. During this process, you will hear the good, and you will hear the bad. I will be right alongside you for it as your voice in Columbus.

One of the ideas I will need to examine at the state level is how to return flexibility in providing services to our partners at the local level, such as repealing unfunded mandates from the last General Assembly —something I have already supported in a bill this year.

It is important to note that 85 percent of state dollars flow directly to our communities in some way, whether it be through local government, local school districts, providers of mental health or developmental disabilities services.

As our citizens make do with less income, so must our government. Some good programs are certain to be cut in the near future.

But the budget must and will be balanced — as is legally required. The challenge will be to do the best job possible with the resources that we have.

John Carey serves in Ohio’s 87th District of the House of Representatives, which includes eastern Lawrence County. He may be reached at (614) 466-1366 or by writing to: Ohio House of Representatives, 77 South High Street, Columbus, OH 43215. He can also be reached via e-mail at