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Public safety shouldn’t be part of cuts

This spring has brought with it a string of destructive weather, including major flooding and tornadoes across the nation.

Here in southern Ohio, we are recovering from floods that devastated many roads, bridges, homes, businesses, and churches across multiple counties.

Last week, I talked with several local officials and constituents in the 87th Ohio House District who are facing major road and bridge washouts and damages. The repair estimates for these damages are totaling in the millions of dollars.

Throughout my service in the legislature I am often reminded that one of the primary responsibilities of government is to provide for public safety and law enforcement.

Local governments, in partnership with the state, carry out these functions for the people of Ohio.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities.”

In other words, government should only perform functions that people cannot do on their own. Providing for safe, passable roads and bridges is an excellent example of the proper role of government.

It is obvious that the recent flooding has caused more damage than resources available on the local level. Although the state has provided a limited amount of assistance through the Ohio Public Works Commission, a large need still exists.

I have co-signed a letter with my legislative colleagues that asked the governor to support funding and providing emergency assistance to the areas impacted by the flood.

I hope this will help make assistance available to local communities in their rebuilding and repair efforts.

It is also important to remember the government’s primary roles as we go through the state budget process. A proposal has been discussed that would allow counties to consolidate. I am concerned that this proposal could negatively impact the public safety and justice system.

Although counties may currently benefit from sharing services and having joint projects, I do not see an advantage to placing a provision to allow for total consolidation of counties in the budget.

If it is an idea worth considering, it should be given thorough consideration in separate legislation.

As we continue to debate the size of government, funding for public safety will be probably be reduced.

However, we must find a compromise between public safety services and a balanced budget, all the while using taxpayer dollars for Ohioans to do what they cannot do for themselves.

John Carey serves in Ohio’s 87th District of the House of Representatives, which includes eastern Lawrence County. He can be reached at (614) 466-1366, by writing to: Ohio House of Representatives, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215, or via e-mail at District87@ohr.state.oh.us.