Friday, May 06, 2011

GUEST COLUMN: "A Budget With a Long-Term Vision of Prosperity" by Speaker Batchelder

Speaker Batchelder
By Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder

As members of the Ohio House of Representatives descended upon Columbus from their constituencies in every corner of the state this year, we did so knowing that one of our largest and most difficult tasks as legislators would be to construct a state operating budget that would pull us out of Ohio’s gaping budget hole and set us on a path toward fiscally sound economic practices. Otherwise, it was bankruptcy. This was the time—and on Day One it had to be about job creation and reducing Ohioans’ tax burden.
No matter how you slice it, rectifying a structural deficit of $8 billion due to one-time funds used for ongoing expenses is going to be hard. A budget like that requires careful analysis, thoughtful consideration and a great team of people working together on it.
For this reason, I am tremendously proud of Representative Ron Amstutz, chairman of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee, for leading this house—the People’s House—through the budgeting process. Chairman Amstutz, along with Vice-Chairman John Carey, Ranking Member Vernon Sykes and the rest of the committee and subcommittee members on both sides of the aisle, worked diligently and respectfully with one another in a way that should make all Ohioans proud.
Through their efforts, the House has built a transformational budget that represents a new way of doing things.  It is a budget that strengthens limited government—a government that can best serve and empower its people. It is also a budget in which we made every effort to spend less money than in the previous General Assembly—and we succeeded, WITHOUT RAISING TAXES on hard-working Ohioans who ask that they might keep the money they’ve earned.
While the House’s passage of the legislation is only one step within the overall process, because of how it was done, it will dominate budget making in this session and in the future. It aims to keep Ohioans healthy in an affordable way. It provides hard-to-come-by financial resources to our local governments. It expands school choice, strengthening our struggling schools and protecting our strongest ones. It keeps college affordable at a time when it is most important our citizens have the knowledge for 21st Century jobs. And most importantly, it gives Ohioans the opportunity to retain the money they’ve earned, with the flexibility to spend it in a way that will most benefit them and their families. After all, it’s their money.
I have always believed Ohio is an exceptional place to live, work and start a business. It is a place where we can act upon our dreams and work toward a life of prosperity and peace, raising our children to inherit a state that is even better than that which was handed to us. Responsible budgeting is a part of that process.
No budget is perfect. But after 57 committee hearings, 811 witnesses and nearly 200 hours of testimony, this proposal is the furthest we have come during my many years as a legislator to enacting the policies and solutions that will set Ohio on a course toward real economic vitality and business development. It will continue to be built upon and made better for the people of Ohio in the coming weeks, but for now we must be proud of Chairman Amstutz and other hard-working and passionate legislators, who through this bill are making an effort to give all Ohioans a budget that will make us proud, even in the most difficult of times.