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Published: Monday, 2/9/2009

Gov. Strickland: stimulus plan will wreck state budget


COLUMBUS Gov. Ted Strickland warned Monday that two Ohio juvenile detention facilities would close while tens of thousands of Ohioans would lose access to Alzheimer s respite care, mental health services, and drug and alcohol treatment if a revised economic stimulus package under consideration in the U.S. Senate becomes law.

The proposed compromise threatens to blow a giant hole in Mr. Strickland s two-year budget proposal that is barely a week old. The $54.7 billion budget plan counts on about $5 billion in one-time funding, including $3.4 billion in emergency federal aid that has yet to be delivered.

Mr. Strickland said a proposed $25 billion reduction in stimulus funds targeted to cash-strapped states would have a devastating impact on Ohio. It would undercut the state s plan for at least a one-year freeze on tuition at state universities and colleges, requiring 40 percent of those students to pay more.

Put simply, without substantial fiscal relief for states, more Ohioans will lose jobs and fewer Ohioans will have access to the critical services that our state and local communities provide , wrote Mr. Strickland in a letter sent Monday to members of Ohio s congressional delegation.

The U.S. House had passed an $819 billion economic stimulus package sought by President Barack Obama solely on the back of Democratic votes. Senate Republicans, however, have succeeded in holding up the plan in that chamber, arguing that the plan is too heavy on pork-barrel spending and too light on tax cuts.

A compromise $827 billion plan that could come to a vote today is expected to draw support from a handful of moderate Senate Republicans. The plan slashes proposed funding for states for such things as education, social services, and highway and bridge construction projects in favor of more general tax cuts and additional credits designed to boost car and home sales.

As an elected official, I believe that fiscal restraint and taxpayer accountability are fundamental responsibilities rightly demanded by the people we serve, wrote Mr. Strickland in his letter. They deserve nothing less. Yet nearly all economists agree that substantial federal spending is necessary today to avoid the dangers of deflation and to stimulate a stagnant national economy.

State legislative Republicans have been critical of Mr. Strickland for relying so heavily on one-time federal aid to balance this budget while still increasing spending over 4.4 percent over the next two years. Much of that increased spending comes in the area of K-12 education.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com, or 614-221-0496.

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