0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Cincinnati might not be facing an
operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts
to state aid for local governments.
by German Lopez
Republican state officials slashed local government funding in previous budgets
Cincinnati might not be facing an operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments.Following cuts approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and
the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature, Cincinnati officials estimate
the city is getting $26 million less in state funding in 2015 than the
city did in 2010.
At the same time, the city is facing a $21 million operating budget gap in 2015.
The reduction in state aid helps explain why the local
budget gap remains after several years of council-approved spending cuts
and tax hikes.
“It sounds like the city is doing a good job,” said
Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach at Monday’s Budget and Finance
Committee meeting. “Where we’re seeing these obstacles is these outside
Independent Councilman Christopher Smitherman countered
that the cuts to the local government fund and the elimination of the
estate tax, both of which drove the reduction in state aid, have been
known since 2011 and 2012.
“Public policy makers have, in my opinion, continued to
make decisions as if those public policy decisions from the governor’s
chair or from the state … weren’t in play,” Smitherman said. “This is
not new information.”
Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn agreed. He said it’s
time to stop blaming the governor for the city’s problems and face the reality of
reduced revenues.Still, Winburn acknowledged he would be willing to meet with state officials to bring more revenue back to Cincinnati.“Maybe Republicans will be willing to meet with a
Republican like me and see if we can bring some money back to
Cincinnati,” Winburn said.
Republicans at the state level passed cuts to the local
government fund as a way to balance the 2012-2013 budget, which faced a
projected gap of nearly $8 billion in 2011. They then approved the
elimination of the estate tax — often labeled the “death tax” by
opponents — in 2012.
But with Ohio’s economy slowly recovering from the Great
Recession, the state budget looks to be in much better shape. The
2012-2013 budget ended with a $2 billion surplus because of
Ohio Democrats point to the surplus as evidence the
Republican-controlled state government could undo the $1 billion in cuts to local
government funding. They argue the cuts have hurt local governments and
forced cities to slash basic services, including public safety.
by German Lopez
Report found state has cut local government funding by nearly 50 percent since 2010
With the support of local officials from around the state, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a website called ProtectMyOhio.com to organize efforts to restore local government funding cut during Gov. John Kasich’s time in office.
Speaking during a phone conference today, Sittenfeld, Dayton
Commissioner and mayoral candidate Nan Whaley, Columbus Councilman Zach
Klein and Toledo Councilman and mayoral candidate Joe McNamara described
how state funding cuts have forced cities and counties to cut services.
“What we’re really trying to do today is speak up and
sound the alarm about the governor’s ongoing raid on the Local
Government Fund,” Sittenfeld said. “Over the last four years, the
governor has taken away $3 billion in local government funding. This
year alone, municipalities across Ohio are going to receive nearly $1
billion less than they previously would have.”
He added, “This is the exact same money that cities,
villages and townships used to keep cops in the street, staff our fire
departments, fix the potholes and some of the other basic services that
citizens rightly expect and the local governments are the ones
responsible for delivering.”
In the past, the Kasich administration has argued the cuts
were necessary. When previously asked about cuts to education and other
state funding, Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, told CityBeat, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”
But the 2014-2015 budget is not under the fiscal pressures Kasich experienced when he took office, and the governor is pursuing $1.4 billion in tax cuts over the next three years,
which he argues will help spur small businesses around the
state. During the phone conference, local officials said the revenue going to tax cuts
would be better used to return funds to local governments.
Sittenfeld says the cuts have left Cincinnati with $12
million less per year. “That is the difference between us having our
first police recruit class in nearly six years versus not having it,” he
said. “It’s the difference between enduring dangerous fire engine
brownouts versus not having to do so.”
Klein, who represented Columbus in the call,
said the cuts have amounted to nearly $30 million for his city, which he
said is enough money to help renovate nearly all the city’s recreation
centers, parks and pools.
“No one is spared,” Klein said. “Everyone is getting cut
across the state, and every neighborhood — no matter if you’re in a
small village or in a large city like Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo or
Dayton — (is) at some level feeling the effects of the cuts, whether
it’s actual cuts in services or what could be investments in
Klein said the cuts, which have been carried out by a
Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature, contradict
values espoused by national Republicans. At the federal level,
Republicans typically argue that states should be given more say in
running programs like Medicaid, but Ohio Republicans don’t seem to share
an interest in passing money down to more local governments, according
Some state officials have previously argued that it’s not
the state’s responsibility to take care of local governments, but
Sittenfeld says it’s unfair to not give money back to the cities:
“Cincinnati is a major economic engine for the entire state. We’re
sending a lot of money to Columbus, so I think it’s fair to say we would
like some of that money back. John Kasich doesn’t have to fill the
potholes, and John Kasich doesn’t have to put a cop on the street.”
Whaley, who represented Dayton in the call, said, “There’s
a county perspective on this as well. The counties would certainly say
that the unfunded mandates that the state legislature brings down daily
are covered by those local government funds. While (state officials)
keep on making rules for the counties to administer services and make
those efforts, it’s pretty disingenuous to say that (county officials)
don’t get a share of the income.”
A Policy Matters Ohio report found the state has cut $1.4 billion from local government funding
— nearly half of total funding — during Kasich’s time as governor. The report pinned much of that drop on the estate tax,
which was phased out at the beginning of 2013 and would have provided
$625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget. The estate tax was
repealed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and
Cincinnati had structural deficit problems before Kasich
took office, but local officials argue the state’s cut have made matters
worse. When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City Manager Milton
Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost Cincinnati $22.2
million in revenues for the year.
Kasich’s office did not return CityBeat’s phone calls for this story.
Kasich’s latest budget proposal has also been criticized by Republicans and Democrats
for tax cuts and education funding plans that benefit the wealthy and
expanding Medicaid (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).
by German Lopez
Previous cuts helped cause Cincinnati budget deficit
A new Policy Matters Ohio report found local government
funding has been reduced by $1.4 billion since Gov. John Kasich took
office, leading to a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding.
The report found local government funding dropped from
nearly $3 billion in the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years — the years budgeted
by former Gov. Ted Strickland — to about $2.2 billion in the 2012 and
2013 fiscal years — the first two years budgeted by Kasich. The governor’s most recent budget proposal would ensure
the continuation of the downward slide, with local government funding
dropping down to slightly more than $1.5 billion in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, according to the
Policy Matters concluded new revenue from the state’s
casinos and an expanded sales tax would not be enough to outweigh cuts
in the Local Government Fund, utility tax reimbursements, tangible
personal property reimbursements and the termination of the estate tax. By itself, the estate tax, which was phased out at the beginning of 2013, would have provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget, but it was repealed
in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Kasich.
The governor’s office has repeatedly argued that the cuts in Kasich’s first budget
were necessary to help balance an $8 billion budget deficit, but the
Policy Matters report says improving economic conditions have removed a need
for further local government funding cuts: “To encourage growth we need
good schools, reliable public safety and emergency services and strong
communities. During hard times, state and local policy led to cuts. But
further cuts in appropriations for local government are not helping
communities. Curtailing local control of local revenues will complicate
recovery – as the economy improves, it is time to restore the fiscal
partnership between state and community.”
When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City Manager Milton
Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year.
CityBeat previously covered Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal and how it affects taxpayers, schools and Medicaid recipients (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).