Thursday, March 14, 2013

Responsible Budgeting Key to Ohio’s Success

Guest Column from State Representative Jim Buchy

You don’t have to watch the news for very long to realize the federal government is in disarray. The national debt is approaching $17 trillion and there seems to be no sign of slowing down. Taxpayers of future generations will be on the hook for the excessive spending of today, which is unsustainable by anyone’s estimation.

Not long ago, Ohio was acting in much the same way as the federal government. By the end of 2010, the state was staring at an $8 billion budget shortfall. The reserve fund—which is in place to help the state during fiscal emergencies—contained 89 cents. In other words, if Ohio faced a fiscal crisis, the State could maybe have afforded to buy a cup of coffee and simply watch the events unfold.

Fortunately, a lot has changed since then. Under Republican leadership, we balanced the state’s budget without raising anyone’s taxes and the reserve fund now holds about $1.4 billion, according to the administration. I was very pleased to hear about the governor’s proposal to further cut income taxes on individuals and businesses. There are still a number of questions that need to be answered about his budget, and they will be fully vetted in the House and Senate over the next couple months.

Another part of the governor’s plan is to expand the sales tax to cover more services, although at the same time reducing the rate from 5.5 percent to 5.0 percent. When paired with cuts in the income and sales tax rates, this plan should result in a net tax decrease. Like many of the other proposals this policy has to be further examined to ensure that tax reduction is in place for all Ohioans.

To strengthen the bond of accountability between government and taxpayers, legislation was introduced early in the General Assembly that would strictly penalize wrong-doing by local fiscal officers. It also would put in place a uniform removal provision and due process for government officials, such as county auditors and treasurers.

In the past 30 years, I have had the opportunity to call many local fiscal officers friends, but in other places in Ohio some bad eggs have revealed the need to increase accountability for fiscal officers. As voters you need the ability to call leaders to tasks for their actions. Just as Congress retains the option to call out President Obama or any other President for shortcomings, our local governments need the ability to demand your tax dollars are being handled appropriately.

It is important for government at all levels to be responsible. That includes being accountable to taxpayers and being smart with their budgets. Like Governor Kasich said in his State of the State address last month, “If a government can’t manage its budget, then what can it manage?”

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