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Published: Tuesday, 4/5/2011

800 protest in Columbus over budget cuts

COLUMBUS — Some 800 nursing home workers, child care providers, librarians, and students Tuesday held the first of what is likely to be many rallies protesting expected budget cuts.
“I am a mother. I know how to balance a budget on a welfare check…,” said Nickole Wilson, of Cleveland, representing Advocates for Budget Legislation Equality.
“Our children are in dire straits right now,” she said. “We cannot cut education…We are dealing with a global economy now. If we cut education, we are cutting the lives of our children.”
While the shouting was taking place outside the windows of Gov. John Kasich’s Statehouse office, they couldn’t be heard inside where Mr. Kasich signed a bill increasing the authority of State Auditor Dave Yost to conduct performance audits for state and local governments.
The governor said he hadn’t heard what the crowd was shouting.
“I think we’ve done a very good job in terms of our efforts to protect the weakest among us,” he said. “Look, we’re going to find as we go through the process…that there are places where we have some gaps. One of the things we did was to protect all the people who are currently on child care. They get to keep the child care…
“Our Medicaid program, a lot of people would have cut gone in and gotten rid of things like dental coverage, but we didn’t do that,” Mr. Kasich said.
Mr. Kasich proposed a $55.5 billion, two-year budget last month that calls for no tax hikes but cuts aid to local governments, schools, libraries, colleges, and a number of social services. In many cases, the cuts are due to the loss of one-time federal stimulus dollars that shored up the current budget but won’t be replaced by state dollars in the next.
The proposal deals with a nearly $8 billion revenue shortfall and is currently being debated in House hearings.
Tuesday’s protestors are part of One Ohio Now, a coalition of education, labor, and human service groups that argue that the answer to the state’s budget woes should be a mix of tax increases and spending cuts.
A final spending plan must reach Mr. Kasich’s desk by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

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