Friday, August 5, 2011



While Oelslager did vote for HB 153 on June 8th, he voted against a House/Senate conference version of the bill on June 28th.

The dramatic cuts in local government funding(LGF) were in the June 8th version of the bill.

As the SCPR sees it, there must have been other reasons why Oelslager changed his vote because the House/Senate conference version is only slightly different from Governor Kasich's proposal. The House/Senate inserted minimums that small counties could get in the reduction scheme.  The Senate won out in that its minimum ($750,000) won out in conference.  However, the Senate's preference for a $50 million fund in each year of the biennium to take the minimums from with any leftovers being distributed proportionally to the remaining (above the minimum) counties was rejected in conference.  

While every dollar helps, $50 million (distributed apparently the better part of Ohio's 88 counties) on what the SCPR calculates as being in the neighborhood of $1 billion in cuts to Ohio's political subdivisions is hardly an amount of money that would stave off the effect of the draconian cuts on Stark County's budget which is already in crisis mode because of the loss of all sales/use tax revenues.

Robert Wang of The Repository has refreshed yours truly on a piece (Local state reps vote along party lines on state budget) he did on June 29th in which Oelslager himself gave the reason for his no vote and it wasn't local government funding, to wit:
Oelslager, who had voted for the Senate’s initial budget bill, said Wednesday that he was the only Republican senator to vote against the final bill because he opposed the conference committee inserting provisions into the bill related to merit pay and performance standards for teachers. The committee reconciled the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Endorsed last year by the teachers’ state association, the Ohio Education Association, he said merit pay and performance standards should be a subject of collective bargaining between teachers and school districts, and they shouldn’t be imposed by the state.
Here is a comparison of the various versions of (executive, senate, house and conference) of the LGF provisions of the bill.


Politics over a solemn promise?

That's how one might explain the votes of Stark County's legislative Republicans as a "stamp of approval" of the Kasich administration's HB 153 (the state biennium [two year] budget - July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2014) which takes away 25% of local government funding from Stark's political subdivisions in 2012/2013 and then another 50% in 2013/2014.

The SCPR's take is that state Senator Scott Oelslager (R-Plain), state Reps Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro) and Kirk Schuring (R-Jackson) think their political party's position is more important than the financial viability of Stark County's local government units.

Another element of their vote is that it puts their imprimatur on the breaking of a promise by the state of Ohio in 1935 (76 years ago) to help local governments with the financing of local governments by taking 40% of the state sales tax and passing it through to Ohio's localities.

A well written Cleveland Plain Dealer pieceOhio's pact to support local governments has a 76-year history, Aaron Marshall, March 27, 2011 sets out the history of how the Local Government Fund (Fund - LGF) got started.

As part of a legislative deal to get approval of the instituting of a 3% statewide sales tax and in the light that the year before the state legislature had eliminated a local government property tax, the Fund was established and has been honored by state officials ever since.

Some in Ohio are wondering whether or not the LGF will exist at all by the time Republican Governor John Kasich finishes his four year term on December 31, 2014.  His final executive budget will cover July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016.

It is politically unthinkable for a state senator or a state representative of either party to vote against a governor's (of his/her party) budget.  It happens very rarely and for those who do so, there will be political revenge to deal with.

Needless to say, neither Oelslager, Hagan or Schuring have the stomach to dissent on a Republican governor's budget even if (as in the case of Stark) it deals a devastating blow to their home area.

Such is an example of a key reason why a growing if not a predominant number of Americans and Ohioans are developing a profound dislike of politicians of whatever variety.  For the most part, they prove over and over again that if it is their personal political hide at stake, then their constituents get cast by the wayside. 

House Bill 153 is a prime example of party politics prevailing over the local government public good.

With HB 153, the state budget shrinks 17%.   Yet the cuts to local government funding are 25% and then 50%?  

If the cut formula for local government funding had been a proportional "share the pain" 17%, then the cuts become reasonable and livable.

And a proportional cut makes it appears (plausibly so) that it is not so much a political agenda of forcing tax increases at local levels and using severe cuts to compel mergers/consolidations and "sharing of local government services," but rather a sharing in the economic/financial realities of the state of Ohio.

It could be that Oelslager, Hagan and Schuring genuinely agree with the Kasich administration implicit position that local governments need to raise revenues and they need to merge/consolidate or at the very minimum "share services."

If so, they need to stand front and center and say so.

But they aren't!

Because to do so - you've guessed it - would put their political hides in jeopardy.

While the 1935 promise is remote to Oelslager, Hagan and Schuring and the distance probably makes it comfortable for them to undermine the promise; their promises to look out for the financial viability of Stark's local government are as fresh as their last election (appointment in the case of Hagan).

In supporting the Kasich administration's severe local government funding cuts, the trio have broken their promise to the people who sent them to Columbus, but the Columbus-based Republican political pols absolutely love 'em!

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