Sunday, December 13, 2009

GUEST COLUMN: "2009: A Year In Review"

By State Rep. John Adams

With 2010 quickly approaching, I would like to take a moment to discuss the Ohio House’s performance during this General Assembly. One of the most difficult years we’ve experienced in decades, 2009 was marked by record unemployment, tax increases and billion-dollar deficits. And to top it all off was the passage of an unsustainable, inherently flawed budget that has left many Ohioans without vital services and has succeeded in pushing jobs out of state.

In July, the $50.5 billion state budget passed the Legislature and was signed by Governor Strickland. This budget increased biennial spending by $2 billion at a time when spending should have been drastically reduced, and it also relied on more than $7 billion in one-time funds for long-term projects. Once this short-term money runs dry, taxpayers could see massive tax increases and devastating cuts to public services.

State revenues dropped $2 billion in just two years, and I believe that when revenues drop, state government should shrink to fit the economy. Unfortunately, the budgeting mistakes of this General Assembly will make balancing the next biennial budget extremely difficult, and for that reason it is important to take immediate cost-saving measures to alleviate some of the burden later.

In February, I introduced House Bill 25, a government consolidation measure to restructure our state agencies through reorganization and streamlining of services. This bill would examine each funding item and make our government efficient and accountable to the taxpayers, while improving the care and services that so many Ohioans rely on. If enacted, House Bill 25 can save the taxpayers $1 billion each year by producing a more cost-effective government.

I have faith that this legislation could be a viable alternative to tax increases. However, House Bill 25 has only received one committee hearing after remaining idle for nearly a year while our economy and families suffer. I hope to see this bill receive additional hearings during the second half of the General Assembly so we can finally improve our government structure.

Additionally, I co-sponsored House Bill 240, introduced by Representative Barbara Sears, to locate fraud, waste and abuse within the Medicaid system. Ohio’s Medicaid system is 40 percent costlier than the national average, and for this reason I think we need to fully understand the out-of-control growth of this system. House Bill 240 would repair inefficiencies while ensuring that each Medicaid funding item is working effectively. This bill could save the taxpayers $122 million each year, but it has sat idle in committee since its introduction and has not even been allowed sponsor testimony.

This difficult economy can serve as a catalyst for improvements to our state structure. Now more than ever, Ohioans are demanding that their elected leaders use their money wisely and budget just as carefully as their families have done. I have witnessed leaders in charge of setting policy in Columbus follow a “business as usual” plan that does nothing to change Ohio’s downward spiral. They are spending money like we have it, and believe me, we don’t. We have introduced nearly sixty bills that would help the business climate in Ohio only to have them shelved by the Speaker of the House. We have an opportunity to fix Ohio’s broken economy not just in the short-term, but for years to come by lowering the tax burden and attracting jobs.

I hope that 2010 will bring a cooperative legislative environment here in the Ohio House, and I will continue to fight for responsible economic policies.