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Senate Finance Committee Testimony 6.2.11

Senate Finance Committee Testimony 6.2.11

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Published by: oneohionow on Jun 02, 2011
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85 East Gay Street 
Suite 1002Columbus, Ohio 43215614.420.2027 | andrea@oneohionow.org  www.oneohionow.org 
Written Testimony on Sub HB 153Senate Finance CommitteeJune 2, 2011By: Andrea Fejes, Coordinator
Chair Widener, Vice Chair Jones, Ranking Member Skindell and members of the Senate Finance Committee, thankyou for the opportunity to provide testimony on Substitute House Bill 153, the biennial budget. My name isAndrea Fejes and I am the coordinator of One Ohio Now.One Ohio Now is a statewide coalition of over 45 organizations ranging from health and human services andeducation to public transportation and working families. Coalition members have come together over the pastyear to
examine the state’s crisis and suggest reasonable solutions
that minimize the impact to Ohioans andensures our state emerges strong when prosperity returns.
In Ohio, as in most other states, we’re
facing some pretty tough times.The longest and deepest national recession since the Great Depression has made it harder for us to find work,provide for our families, support our communities or maintain positive expectations for the future. The sad reality
is that just as people’s needs are rising dramatically, the resources to meet those needs are declining. In fact, Ohio
and other states have seen unprecedented losses of revenue in this recession.Now Ohio does not have sufficient resources to provide essential services and invest in our future. In response tothis crisis, we have mostly relied on reducing services that assist communities and vulnerable families who arestruggling through no fault of their own.We have seen the result of these cuts
libraries have decreased hours and closed branches; access to mentalhealth services has been reduced to those that are in dire need of help; county Job and Family Services agencieshave had to serve increasing numbers of families with fewer resources; and public transit agencies have restrictedservices limitin
g people’s access to work
and their communities.We have also begun to hear what additional proposed cuts will mean to local communities. Elected officials fromcities across Ohio have testified before this committee that they will have to lay off workers, including policeofficers and fire fighters, if the proposed budget is approved.Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander says the cuts could force him to lay off 32 employees, most of themdeputies. Dayton City Manager Tim Riordan testified that the city will have to lay off employees to deal with the$9.2 million in cuts the city is facing. This is in addition to Dayton City Schools eliminating 294 jobs which includes1 out of every 10 teachers. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has already laid off 321 city employees, including 81police officers and 51 firefighters. Loveland will have to lay off their part-time police officers.
It is clear that solving the budget with cuts alone will not help our state rebound from these hard economic times,create jobs, or provide the services businesses and families look for when choosing a place to locate or raise theirfamilies.We should
always review what works and what doesn’t and make adjustments.
However, this crisis is too large tosolve with just one implement. We need all the tools in the toolbox to rebuild our economic foundation.If we fail to support public education, reduce services that help our children grow up in stable homes, do notsustain vital health care services and slash funding to local governments where many of the services that supportour families are delivered we undermine the future economic prosperity of everyone in our state.
That’s why it’s crucial that we keep investing in Ohio’s people, schools, infrastructure and communities. If we try to
deal with hard times only by cuts in spending, we risk hacking so much that we set ourselves permanently back.We need to balance spending cuts with reasonable, wise revenue investments so that Ohio can rebound fully fromthese times of trouble and strengthen the vital public structures that make Ohio a great place to live and worksuch as schools, clinics, parks and police and fire protection.One way to accomplish this is to ensure accountability by reviewing and reducing the more than $7 billion thatOhio gives up every year in tax expenditures. These tax breaks, credits and deductions are simply spending byanother name. Some of them are warranted. However, unlike appropriations that are reviewed every two years,many of these are put in place and not reviewed for decades. There is no way of knowing if they are accomplishingthe goals for which they were intended. Reviewing and reducing loopholes should be just one piece of theadditional revenues needed to avoid drastic cuts to basic services like schools, local governments and humanservices.We applaud the Senate for including in their changes the creation of a committee to review tax expenditures.However, when such drastic cuts are being made to education, human services and local governments it is onlyright that steps be taken in this budget to also reduce unnecessary tax loopholes.We also appreciate the additional funding the Senate has dedicated to schools, local governments and humanservices. However, many of the state's poorest school districts have seen steep declines in their local tax basesdue to eroded property values, and will suffer under the proposed budget. The cuts will hurt families in Ohio'srural counties and urban areas alike. They fall the most heavily on the areas with the greatest need and on themost vulnerable of residents - our kids. We need an approach that includes more revenue to prevent classroomsize from ballooning, facilities from crumbling, and to ensure quality education in all school districts across thestate.And while the committee also attempted to soften the blow to local governments, many communities still facehuge cuts that will have a direct impact on local governments to provide services that make communities placesfamilies and businesses want to locate. These cuts will result in un-repaired potholes, less patrol cars keeping ussafe and longer emergency responses. These cuts will harm our future economic prosperity. A balanced approachwould allow us to maintain investments in basic public structures like K-12 education, public safety andinfrastructure.Ohio has faced recessions before and every governor, whether Democrat or Republican, has responded with a planthat includes revenue. A majority of other states have also responded to this crisis with a mix of spending cuts andrevenue since the start of the recession. A balanced approach has helped before and we need it again. The
massive decline in revenue has dug a hole for Ohio that we can’t
cut our way out of.
We need an approach that will meet today’s growing needs and build a foundation for tomorrow’s prosperity.

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