President, Blue Chip Young Republicans
When it comes to the budget debacle in Ohio, I am reminded of the old line, "How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving." With the election over, I have to ask who won. I see Taft, but I hear Hagan. The resulting problems for the Republican Party are many and will be felt for years to come.
Of course the Democrats are gleeful but are falling into the same trap as national Democrats -- they haven't offered a single viable idea as an alternative. Their delight will be short-lived if they remain their silent, vacuous selves.
We cannot expect the bureaucrats to shrink their budgets willingly; they already screamed they were cutting "to the bone" (per Taft) when the budget grew 6 percent last year. The real work must be done by the House and Senate, specifically the Republican majorities in both.
It seems though that Republican majorities, in their joy of spending at triple the rate of inflation throughout the 1990s, have forgotten what it was like under decades of Democrat rule. They do, however, understand that they will be in front of voters very soon. That is why they are passing the buck in many ways, by giving the people the choice of poison pills: video lottery terminals or sales tax (I will not waste time talking about the foolishness of the term "temporary") to meet a budget they won't cut.
The Senate is still stinging from being rebuffed by the House's reduced tax stance last year. So look for the Senate to put together a real package that will be worked out in conference -- much to the chagrin of Democrats, who will still be without a plan and have even less voice in Columbus.
The politics of budgets come down to this: justification and responsibility. Do partisan politics play a part? Sure. But the key is to justify the expense based upon a few high profile and well-loved programs (read: school funding) while hanging the responsibility on as many shoulders (necks) as possible by buying votes. The Republicans' key problem is that, unlike Democrats, their idealists can't justify a vote (won't be bought) with the normal currency of pork.
Executive Director, Cincinnati Charter Committee
The budget compromise hammered out by the Republican leadership and a handful of conscientious members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus might not be cause for celebration, but it is cause for an enormous sigh of relief.
Only a few weeks ago there had been open discussion of cuts equaling $3 billion, with local government funds taking some of the biggest cuts. Ohio cities, including Cincinnati, would have been forced to make drastic budget decisions. The most basic of city services -- fire, police, garbage removal -- would face serious cuts.
Fortunately, saner heads prevailed. Five members of the Black Caucus, including Cincinnatian Tyrone Yates, reached a compromise with Republican House Speaker Larry Householder that avoided some of the most onerous cuts, including many of those directed at local governments. Without this compromise, Householder would have been forced to negotiate with recalcitrant members of the ultra-conservative wing of his party.
Barbara Sykes, the leader of the Black Caucus, stated she was "petrified" by this possibility. Her fears were justified.
Yates, Sykes and all the yes votes should be applauded for putting the interest of the state and citizens above partisan politics. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening. The Democratic leadership in the House, including Minority Leader Chris Redfern, has threatened the five legislators with a variety of repercussions, including removing them from committees.
Ohio voters should find this unacceptable. Good and decent legislators, fairly elected by their neighbors and fellow citizens, should not be punished for voting their consciences. Citizens vote for the candidate, not the political party.
Ohio citizens of both political parties, and the numerous voters who consider themselves independent, need to elect more people with the fortitude to stand up to the major political parties. This is the only way to put the health and well being of the state of Ohio ahead of the ever increasing toxicity of Columbus' partisan politics.
President, Hamilton County Young Democrats
By now most have heard that Ohio is facing a $4 billion deficit in the upcoming 2004-2005 budget that is being hammered out.
State Budget Director Tom Johnson recently told the Senate Finance Committee that the budget passed by the House is "structurally" out of balance, meaning it doesn't provide ongoing revenue to meet ongoing expenses. At the same time, Tax Commissioner Tom Zaino urged the same committee to embrace Gov. Bob Taft's proposed overhaul of Ohio's taxes, both to bring structural balance to the budget and attract high-wage jobs and new businesses.
I agree with Johnson and Zaino. However, House Speaker Larry Householder has unfortunately chopped up most of Taft's tax reform proposals and refuses to be a team player.
The House proposed that voters choose between a "temporary" 1-cent sales tax hike or video lottery terminals. This proposal is a lame attempt to brainwash voters to think they are responsible for choosing between the lesser of two evils. The Senate is now massaging the "temporary" tax to "semi-permanent" in its version of the budget. The writing is on the wall and, if this tax increase is enacted, it will likely become permanent.
Householder has led Republicans into the 21st century with poor fiscal management, un-bid state contracts, wasteful spending and lucrative tax credits for businesses, resulting in a bleak fiscal situation that will only get worse. Instead of working with his fellow Republicans in the governor's office and Senate, Householder is a "ball hog" trying to come off as a leader, positioning himself to get elected to a statewide office in 2006.
Householder needs to quit finger pointing on the budget and break the "tax and spend" binge that then-Gov. Voinovich started in the early '90s and that he and his fellow Republicans have continued to cultivate.
Each month, CityBeat poses a question to young leaders in the local Democrat and Republican parties as well as a selected third party or independent activist.