Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Taft endorses Bush's budget


But wants bigger piece of pie for Ohio

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Ohio Gov. Bob Taft endorsed most of President Bush's budget outline Tuesday, but said the state would continue to ask for more federal money for special education and transportation projects.

        “I think we're very encouraged by the fact that we have a president who really wants to be a faithful friend to governors and understands the position that we are in,” said Mr. Taft, who met with Mr. Bush and several other administration officials over the past few days to discuss the state's priorities.

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        The federal government has promised to pay 40 percent of special education costs but typically covers only about 15 percent, the governor's staff said. Ohio also wants a larger share of discretionary transportation spending. The state has received about 1 percent of available funds over the past two years, but would like about 3.5 percent.
       

Taft pushes for equity
        “We're very concerned looking down the road that we have adequate funds for our construction program,” Mr. Taft said.

        President Bush will expand on his outline in a more detailed budget document to Congress in early April.

        The Northeast-Midwest Institute, a non-profit research and advocacy group for states, annually compares federal spending patterns by state and calculates the return to states from federal tax dollars. In fiscal year 1999, the latest figures available, Ohio's per-capita federal tax burden fell to its lowest level in a decade, the institute's research found.

        State residents paid $68.4 billion in federal taxes and the state received $53.3 billion in federal spending, for a return of about 95 cents on the dollar.

        Ohio's return on the dollar in fiscal year 1999 ranked 34th among states.

        Equity is an important issue for Mr. Taft, who also believes states should have more flexibility in administering federal education, Medicaid and welfare programs.

        President Bush told Congress and the nation Tuesday that the government could accomplish his goals of tax relief and debt reduction while spending more money on public education and the military. His budget would increase spending by 4 percent next fiscal year, with cuts in some federal programs to offset increases in others.

        “His approach is a balanced approach,” Mr. Taft said. “It's a conservative approach from a budgetary standpoint.”

        The support of Republican governors like Mr. Taft is crucial to the success of the president's budget package. But disagreements could arise if federal spending cuts occur in programs important to states.

        “We're now moving away from the visionary themes and getting down to business,” said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “I hope people will see that the president is very serious about fiscal discipline.”
       

Dems waiting for details

        Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said Mr. Bush is fulfilling promises he made during the presidential campaign. “He wasn't kidding about a large tax cut,” he said. “He wasn't kidding about dealing with a Social Security shortfall.”

        Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the House liaison to the White House, said he hoped Americans saw the president's passion for moving beyond the rancor of the past several years. “I hope they sense that in him,” he said. “I think what people are looking for is some straight talk. They're looking for some honesty and a vision.”

        Several Democrats said Mr. Bush has not explained his tax package in the kind of detail necessary to convince a majority of Americans it should be a priority.

        Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, said the government should consider a tax cut only after it figures out how to resolve problems with Social Security, Medicare, prescription-drug coverage for seniors and health care for the uninsured. “I think we have all of this backwards,” he said.

       



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