Friday, April 13, 2001

School plan remains $60 million short

Cuts elsewhere create tough choices

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — In their search for money to fix school funding and balance the state budget, Republican leaders need $60 million to complete their puzzle.

        That's what reportedly keeps Gov. Bob Taft, House Speaker Larry Householder and Senate President Richard Finan from shaking hands over a deal that would send $1.4 billion more to schools over the next two years.

        Agreeing on budget cuts and tax code changes needed to supply that money is politically difficult.

        That's why private talks among the three leaders broke down Wednesday night when all sides were close to an agreement.

        “I'm tired,” said Mr. Finan, R-Evendale. “I'm going home to Cincinnati.”

        Meanwhile, their separate staffs look for money.

        Cost-cutting options at agencies include everything from an across-the-board spending freeze to specific changes that would eliminate whole programs.

        Higher education continues to be a target. At risk is up to $176 million for programs to hold down tuition, provide job training, and help attract research grants to universities.

        A $4.4 million proposal to improve technology at state agencies is at risk, as is a $20 million proposal to create a multiagency radio communications system.

        The Department of Development could lose all or part of a $30 million technology assistance grant program. Another $31 million business development grant program also may be cut.

        The weight of the cuts could be lessened by changes to Ohio's tax code. Lawmakers are looking at delaying or eliminating a series of tax cut, credits or exemptions that have not taken effect.

        Delaying a tax credit for corporate research and development costs could provide up to $60 million for schools.

        Delaying another corporate tax break that covers job training expenses could bring in up to $40 million over the next two years.

        The leaders' final agreement might not come until next week.


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- School plan remains $60 million short
Tristate A.M. Report