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Published: Thursday, 3/22/2001

Snake eyes for the Speaker

Rrepublicans in Columbus have been touting House Speaker Larry Householder as the best and brightest of the new breed of Ohio politicians circumscribed by term limits. He's going places, they were saying. Now it appears the only place he's been is the governor's woodshed.

His dim-bulb plan, announced last week with much fanfare, would have funded schools by opening up the state to more legalized gambling. But because of understandable opposition by Governor Taft and Senate President Richard Finan, the plan is dead on arrival.

Mr. Taft was on a trade mission in South America when the speaker blindsided his GOP colleagues with a proposal to plug a hole in the state budget with $900 million in revenue from gambling machines at racetracks.

To his credit, Mr. Householder did succeed in getting the debate over school funding off dead center, if only for a few days. The group that successfully sued the state over the equity and adequacy of how we pay for public schools liked the speaker's plan so much that it agreed to drop its lawsuit if lawmakers adopted his proposal.

But now the gambit is deader than a video lottery terminal in a California blackout. And we have to wonder whether Mr. Householder was really serious about it in the first place. Even his fellow majority Republicans were skittish about the idea, and there was huge opposition from those who oppose betting the state's educational fortunes on another lottery-like gambling operation.

Intentionally or not, what the Householder plan has done is raise the stakes as the legislature moves toward meeting a June 15 deadline to submit a school-funding plan to the Ohio Supreme Court, which has demanded a remedy.

The Coalition for Equity & Adequacy in School Funding now says that it won't be satisfied with anything less than the $3 billion in additional school funding the speaker proposed over the next two years. Governor Taft's plan calls for $808 million more, while Senate Republicans have put up $1.3 billion.

All three factions insist that a solution can be had without a statewide tax increase, and we're going to hold them to their word.

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