Thursday, June 5, 2003

A human investment

Ohio legislature: support the needy

A Senate proposal to add $140 million in its two-year budget plan to help the state's poor and elderly is a worthy investment in human capital, despite the state's predicted $4 billion budget shortfall.

It is especially important for the thousands of poor Ohioans put to work during welfare reform. Subsidized childcare was critical for many of them to get and retain often low-paying jobs. To lose that would surely send many back to the welfare rolls and stress the state even more. An estimated 25,000 children would continue to receive day care services under the new plan.

The budget that senators hope to pass today still falls short of tax reforms needed (its centerpiece is a 1-cent temporary sales tax hike that would generate $2.5 billion through 2005). Yet, on Tuesday, Senate GOP leaders cut a deal to gain Democrat support for their budget plan.

In addition to helping parents with day care, the extra spending would also help an estimated 50,000 families retain Medicaid health-care coverage, and pay for the Passport program that helps seniors live autonomously in their homes, not in pricey nursing homes.

Restoring these funds is worthwhile, but it raises questions about whether the budget can be balanced unless lawmakers adopt Gov. Bob Taft's proposed tax reforms. The legislature still needs to broaden the state's sales tax base and cut tax-loophole abuse.

Supporting the state's most vulnerable citizens, however, is wise, and needs to remain a priority.

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