This week, we asked our area's members of the Ohio General Assembly how they voted on the final 2004-05 state budget plan, and why.
The responses we received:
Rep. Jim Raussen - I did not vote for the final version of the budget bill. In addressing the budget shortfall facing our state, I saw a number of choices: 1) a combination of streamlining government and searching for increased revenues, 2) a tax reform plan that broadens the base and doesn't retard growth, 3) giving the voters an option to vote on alternative funding through VLTs. I was concerned that these options were not explored thoroughly and that the final bill was not in the best interests of our communities; education and tax reform were two priorities for my district that were not met in the bill.
Rep. Patricia Clancy - In an extremely difficult national economy, in order to provide a fair budget for all Ohioans and to ensure vital services for Ohio's children, families, elderly and most vulnerable, I voted in favor of the bill. It includes funding to keep our libraries open, to continue providing vital services to the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled, to eliminate waiting lists for the PASSPORT program and to provide a quality education for every child.
Rep. Tyrone K. Yates - The $48.8 billion budget was a compound of "good and evil." After careful thought, I voted in favor because it maintained services for the most vulnerable populations and raised revenues to meet the $5.1 billion deficit - the worst state fiscal crisis in 60 years. On the downside, the House majority party retreated from tax equity measures and appropriate funding for K-12 and higher education.
Reps. Bill Seitz and Michelle Schneider - We voted "yes," despite misgivings that the budget spent and taxed too much, and despite disappointment that the Senate/governor rejected our House-passed plan to eliminate the sales tax increase if voters approved slot machines at Ohio's seven racetracks. The budget is the ultimate compromise bill between the two legislative chambers and the governor. No one gets everything he/she wants. Some Republicans refused to back a budget with any tax increases at all, resulting in unacceptable cuts to schools, local governments, libraries and services to the elderly and ill. Other Republicans, like us, wanted lower taxes and spending than we ended up with, but recognized the need for additional revenue to keep essential services at or below their present levels. Our leadership had to earn bipartisan support, which increased the budget's price tag. But the alternative - no budget at all - would have hurt too many Ohioans and rendered the Legislature accused of an inability to govern. We also recognize that those who vote against the budget put their other legislative initiatives at risk. We resisted the temptation to pass the burden of the state's economic woes on to local governments and schools. By supporting the compromise, we are better positioned to help our constituents by enacting legislation that serves other priorities.
Rep. Steve Driehaus - I voted against the budget because it does not address the serious waste in state government and does nothing to improve a fundamentally flawed tax code. The one cent sales tax increase, accompanied by 151 fee increases, comes on the heels of a 6 cent/gallon increase in our gasoline tax and a 31 cent/pack tax increase on cigarettes. The burden of these regressive taxes continues to fall on hard working poor and middle class families and upon seniors who are on fixed incomes. The fat cats continue to be well fed.
Rep. Catherine Barrett - I could not in good conscience vote for a bill that continues to take from a population of underserved citizens that can give no more. We shirk our responsibility when we do not ask all Ohioans to share in the burden. Some of Ohio's largest corporations will still pay less in franchise taxes than many working poor and middle-class families pay in income taxes. When will we as legislators close the loopholes in the tax code for corporations that are reaping the rewards from our economy, but not helping to replenish the coffers?
Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. - Once again, the governor and General Assembly missed a golden opportunity to end the state of Ohio's addiction to taxing and spending at three times the rate of inflation. No entity can sustain this situation and until it is corrected, Ohio will continue to lose people and jobs to those states whose budgets are under control.
Rep. Greg Jolivette - I voted in favor of the budget but it was not without some major disappointments. I am upset that the legislature failed to allow Ohioans the opportunity to decide, at the ballot box, whether they wanted the one-cent sales tax increase or to allow slot machines at Ohio's racetracks. which in effect means I was also disappointed with the failure of the Senate to reject Miami University's dubious and confusing tuition plan. I voted yes because of the positive aspects. We increased, protected, and reformed key areas of state government. K-12 aid was increased, and passport and Second Harvest Food Banks will gain increased funds. Medicaid services and the local government fund were protected, and reforms will make state government more accountable and efficient through the audit commission study.
Rep. Jean Schmidt - With this budget it would have been easier to have said "no" than "yes," but I chose to take the more responsible path. As it is said in the Charles Dickens' classic A Tale of Two Cities, this budget reminded me that "it was the best of times and the worst of times." With bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, we were able to do our constitutional duty and pass Ohio's budget before June 30.
Rep. Tom Raga - Until the administration's department directors fully participate with the legislature to implement responsible strategies for our highest expenditure programs (i.e. Medicaid, schools, higher education and other social service funding) we are destined to repeat this process. Unfortunately, the only plan agreeable to the Senate, governor and House missed the opportunity to further control spending and implement tax reform.
Rep. Tom Niehaus - I did not support the budget for a number of reasons, but the biggest one was the level of spending. Less than a week before we voted we were told a combination of revenue shortfalls and increased costs would require an additional $1.2 billion. Legislators chose to use all of the one-time federal bailout of $770 million and increase taxes rather than make more cuts to balance the budget.
Sen. Robert L. Schuler - I voted "no" because I don't believe we should be increasing state spending with new programs in these difficult economic times. We need to ensure that the sales tax increase is truly temporary by restraining increased expenditures.
Sen. Mark Mallory - It was a mixed bag. Senate Democrats fought and won to protect funds for priorities such as schools, libraries, child care and health care for the working poor, and the PASSPORT program, which allows seniors to stay in their homes. Unfortunately, the budget fell short in a number of areas such as higher education funding, Head Start cuts, and an uneven tax burden. In the end, I supported it because I felt the good outweighed the bad.
How they voted on the 2004-05 pact
House of Representatives (53-46 overall)
Rep. Jim Raussen, R-Springdale (District 28): NO
Rep. Patricia Clancy, R-Colerain Twp. (District 29): YES
Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Twp. (District 30): YES
Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Delhi Twp. (District 31): NO
Rep. Catherine Barrett, D-Cincinnati (District 32): NO
Rep. Tyrone Yates, D-Cincinnati (District 33): YES
Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mount Lookout (District 34): NO
Rep. Michelle Schneider, R-Madeira (District 35): YES
Rep. Shawn Webster, R-Millville (District 53): YES
Rep. Greg Jolivette, R-Hamilton (District 54): YES
Rep. Gary Cates, R-West Chester (District 55): YES
Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Twp. (District 66): YES
Rep. Tom Raga, R-Deerfield Twp. (District 67): YES
Rep. Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond (District 88): NO
Senate (22-10 overall)
Sen. Scott Nein, R-Middletown (District 4): YES
Sen. Robert Schuler, R-Sycamore Twp. (District 7): NO
Sen. Lou Blessing, R-Cincinnati (District 8): YES
Sen. Mark Mallory, D-Cincinnati (District 9): YES
Sen. Doug White, R-Manchester (District 14): YES
A generation that's ready for change
A way to overcome our fears
Mix creates strength
Cheatin' hearts: Here's your 'fudge factor'
Supreme Court: Anti-sodomy laws
Ohio budget: Flawed process
Middle East: Three-month pledge
Ohio lawmakers weigh pros, cons of state budget
Make health care safer, affordable