Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Senate looks to restore funding vetoed by Taft


$20M federal dollars would have gone to social-service programs

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Senate lawmakers hope to restore some money for social-service programs that was lost when Gov. Bob Taft vetoed portions of the $45 billion state budget.

        The Senate Finance Committee will consider restoring more than $20 million in funding to the programs. Lawmakers drafting the two-year budget relied on surplus federal welfare dollars to fund the programs.

        Mr. Taft said he vetoed the use of federal dollars for those programs out of concern the money might be needed if the economy worsens and if future federal funding is reduced.

        The GOP-controlled finance committee is debating a bill to correct largely technical errors in the budget. However, Republican lawmakers intend to propose the bill include funding lost to Taft vetoes, said Senate Finance Chairman Doug White, a Manchester Republican.

        Under consideration:

        • $4.5 million in 2003 for the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks.

        • $600,000 in 2003 for the Ohio Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs.

        • $7.5 million in 2003 to help public children's services associations place violent children and children who have serious mental illness because of physical abuse.

        • $5.2 million in 2002 and $6.5 million in 2003 in emergency housing assistance, including down payments and rental payments, for poor Ohioans.

        “This is about delivering services to the most vulnerable populations in our state — at-risk families, their children, the elderly, the disabled,” said Lisa Hamler-Podolski, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks.

        The committee also will consider a provision to increase the Medicaid reimbursement formula to nursing homes by $1.50 per bed per day. Mr. Taft vetoed the provision, saying the state already adequately reimburses nursing homes.

        A Taft spokesman said “significant progress” has been made between the governor and lawmakers in funding the housing assistance and the nursing home provision. However, “significant distance” remains over the other items, Taft spokesman Kevin Kellems said.

        “The administration's position remains consistent with the veto message, which indicated that it would be irresponsible to promise dollars that are not in the president's budget and we don't yet know with certainty will be there in the future,” Mr. Kellems said.

        Democrats plan to push to add funding for higher education and programs that help the elderly to live at home.

        Democrats also want the state to spend more money on lifeguards at state beaches and pools, noting four drownings this season.

        Jim Lynch, Department of Natural Resources spokesman, said two of those accidents, both involving children, were related to beach or pool safety. The state is having a difficult time because of a lifeguard shortage.

       



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