Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Who wins, who loses in Taft budget



The Associated Press

WINNERS:

Substance abusers. Taft proposes increasing funding to the Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services to $34 million next year, a 10 percent increase, and to $37 million the following year, also a 10 percent increase.

Veterans. Although Taft's budget cuts funding to veterans' groups, it provides a 33 percent increase in funding next year to finish the new Southern Ohio Veterans Home in Georgetown.

Schoolchildren. The budget increases basic aid to schoolchildren to $5,088 per student per year.

College students. The budget would increase basic tuition aid for students 3 percent July 1 and 4 percent the following year. But that increase is from current funding levels, which were cut 6 percent in the fall of 2001.

Seniors. The budget increases funding for Passport, a program that helps senior citizens live at home instead of entering a nursing home, to $75 million next year, a 6.3 percent increase, and to $81 million the following year, an 8.2 percent increase.

LOSERS:

Hunters and anglers. Taft has proposed increasing the fee for fishing and hunting licenses from $15 to $19. Fees would increase from $8 to $10 for youth hunters under 16, and seniors 66 and older would begin paying a $10 fee. Fees would also increase for deer and turkey permits, fur trapping and bait dealers.

Smokers and drinkers. Taft's budget assumes lawmakers will raise state taxes on cigarettes to $1 a pack from 55 cents. The budget also assumes a doubling of the state alcohol tax: 28 cents for a 12-ounce beer and to $6.76 for a gallon of liquor.

History buffs. The budget cuts the Ohio Historical Society, which runs events around the state, by 22 percent next year - to $14 million - and further cuts it to $12.3 million the following year.

Health officials. Taft proposes using $112 million meant to help prevent smoking for general spending instead. The money is from the state's 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. Taft also proposes taking $123 million in tobacco dollars meant to help renovate and build schools. That money will be paid back from the state's next construction budget.

State employees. The budget freezes workers' salaries and doesn't provide money for rising health care costs. It also eliminates employee health centers that provide temporary care for sicknesses, emergency care and first aid.

Some Medicaid beneficiaries. Under the plan, about 30,000 of 400,000 parents who became eligible for Medicaid benefits when a state program for poor families began in July 2000 would be ineligible for any coverage. They could lose Medicaid benefits as soon as October. Children on Medicaid would not be affected.

Source: Office of Budget and Management




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