Friday, November 18, 2011

St. Reps. Roegner, Hagan Introduce Legislation to Bolster Financial Accountability

COLUMBUS—In order to improve government transparency, financial forecasting, and accountability to the taxpayers, State Representatives Kristina Daley Roegner (R-Hudson) and Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Twp.) recently introduced House Bill 368, which is designed to keep the public and the General Assembly better informed through a fact-based, four-year economic forecast.

The legislation calls for a four-year financial outlook report based on items such as current law, demographics, debt load, expected trends and other factors, including budgetary, economic, socio-economic and debt analysis. It will take into consideration both internal and external environmental demands and contingencies that could hinder or accelerate Ohio’s course to success. The financial outlook would project fiscal trends, including projected expenditures and expected tax revenues. The report, completed annually, will be posted on a state website to increase public awareness of the fiscal outlook of the state and keep the state’s finances accountable.

The financial outlook will keep lawmakers and Ohioans more fully aware of financial circumstances that would arise in the future. “The state currently operates on a two-year budget cycle,” Roegner said. “We as lawmakers need to be able to look beyond two years so that we can properly address potential problem areas before a financial crisis actually occurs. A four-year financial outlook is a tool we can use, like businesses do, to help us better plan for the future. It just makes common sense.”

Additionally, House Bill 368 would also create the non-partisan Long-range Financial Outlook Council, comprised of public and private-sector financial experts—serving as volunteers—who would ensure that the financial outlook each year is as complete and accurate as possible.

"I believe that a transparent approach to government, such as our financial outlook, is paramount to creating financial stability and success for our great state,” Hagan said. “Our generation's future depends on responsible policy today, and this is a step in the direction of long-term success that is non-partisan and in the best interest of all Ohioans. My goal is to demand efficiency and effectiveness, and transparency is the key to success and opportunity for my generation."

Other states such as Virginia, Florida and Kentucky have adopted similar processes in their commitment to fiscal responsibility and accountability. Florida's debt rating was recently upgraded to AAA, the highest rate possible.

House Bill 368 has been assigned to the House Finance and Appropriations Committee.