Oregon stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if Gov. John Kasich’s proposed biennial budget is approved, according to Matt Szollosi, state representative from the 49th district.
“The impact to the City of Oregon through the proposed budget is a loss of $900,000 for the two year period. The big hit is in a reduction in the local government fund,” said Szollosi. “The fund would be reduced by 25-percent the first year, followed by a 50-percent cut in the second year of the biennial budget.”
Szollosi, a Democrat, said he opposes the budget cuts that Kasich, a Republican, is proposing.
“Budgeting in and of itself is simply an activity in prioritization, and I wholeheartedly disagree with the priorities that this administration has set in the early going of his term,” said Szollosi.
“Priority is where and who you cut, and it’s also a question of whether the state can identify new sources of revenue,” he said.
He is particularly opposed to Kasich’s plan to lease the turnpike to the private sector.
“At this point, the governor seems to be determined to lease the turnpike, which I believe is a bad move for the state. The people in the northern part of the state paid for that asset. And I question what the potential investor would implement by way of toll increases. In his proposed budget, he’s giving the director of the Department of Budget and Management carte blanche authority to enter into any lease agreement without a requirement for legislative approval. I wholeheartedly disagree with this proposed elimination on our government’s checks and balances, particularly with an asset of this value for our citizens,” he said.
“The issue of maintenance can be called into question,” he continued, “given the fact that the potential investor will be looking to maximize profit as opposed to maintaining the turnpike as the state has done for decades. The asset itself has been well maintained, and I’m not comfortable that an investor looking to maximize profit will have the same dedication as the state has had with respect to operations and maintenance.”
He cited as an example the state of Indiana’s turnpike, which was leased to private interests.
“Tolls have increased significantly compared to what they were previously, maintenance has deteriorated, and the toll workers are now making close to minimum wage,” he said.
Szollosi was also frustrated that Kasich has not provided leadership on helping financially strapped school districts, such as the Oregon City Schools District, which will lose millions in the next few years.
In 2005-06, the House and Senate froze implementation of the fifth and final year of House Bill 66, which phased out tangible personal property taxes, in an effort to help school districts hit hard by the bill,” said Szollos, but Kasich has not offered anything along those lines.
“We froze the fifth and final year, or postponed it, in order to ensure that public education in Ohio did not realize devastating cuts. By postponing the final year, $800 million went to public education in our state. We took the steps to prioritize education. This governor, and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate thus far have not,” said Szollosi.
Szollosi also said he was disappointed that Kasich has not endorsed, as did former Governor Ted Strickland, implementing video lottery terminals in Ohio’s horse racetracks.
“Kasich has yet to propose this issue, which we incorporated a few years ago. We granted all seven racetracks in Ohio the ability to incorporate video lottery terminals at their facilities, which would have generated $400 million per year, or an additional $800 million over two years. We’re looking at devastating cuts for local schools and local governments. Again, this is about priorities,” said Szollosi.
“I take issue with the governor saying we’re not going to raise taxes but cut the budget with spending cuts. What Kasich is doing is simply transferring the tax burden from the state to the local level. And I fail to see how that will make our local communities more competitive for economic and industrial development. All we’ve heard on the campaign trail last year was that his focus would be on job creation, yet all we’ve seen so far is a concentrated attack on worker’s rights, both through Senate Bill 5 and his budget proposal,” he said.
Senate Bill 5, recently signed into law by Kasich, restricts collective bargaining rights of public workers.
“The pension systems themselves have expressed concern over the loss of revenue resulting from that proposal,” said Szollosi. “We have public sector workers across the state who are barely making ends meet right now. Opponents have 90 days from March 30, when the governor signed SB 5, to put a referendum measure on the November ballot. They have until June 30 to collect 231,000 signatures. I am certain that enough signatures will be gathered to put the measure on the ballot. If the voters decide to overturn SB 5, and I believe they will, SB 5 never becomes law. I anticipate that those who railroaded this through the legislature are going to get a real dose of democracy in November when this gets overturned. I think SB 5 went way too far, and I don’t think citizens in Ohio will stand for it.”