Wednesday, January 31, 2007


What Will Happen to Higher Education?

That's the question that Richard Sheridan asks and answers in State Budgeting Matters this week. Here is his introduction:

Between fiscal years 1975 and 1982, under Governor James Rhodes, higher education prospered and state General Revenue Fund (GRF) aid increased by 87.4 percent. Between FY 1983 and 1990, Governor Richard Celeste continued giving higher education the state’s highest priority and funding almost doubled (98.2 percent), growing more than any other major spending area. But after that it’s been all downhill.

You can find the complete report here

Thursday, January 25, 2007


NCSL Releases List of Top 10 Issues for States

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has released its list of top state legislative issues for the 2007 sessions. All 50 states will hold legislative sessions this year, most of them beginning this month. I thought it was interesting how many of these are already moving in Ohio.

1. Immigration. While the U.S. Congress has been unable to pass substantive immigration reform legislation, 32 states approved 84 new laws in 2006, and NCSL expects states to continue to legislate in this area.

2. Homeland Security and Real ID. Complying with national standards for state-issued identification cards is expected to consume both time and money for states, since Washington has provided no regulations and few financial resources.

3. Budget Issues. Many states expect their good fortune to run out this year, aided by spending demands and cost shifts from Washington.

4. Health Coverage. Following the lead of Massachusetts, Vermont and California, more states are expected to look at expanding health care coverage for state residents.

5. Sex Offenders. States will be ensuring that their laws comply with new federal legislation that passed last year.

6. Energy and Environment. This is another area where states are stepping in where the federal government fears to tread. Emission controls and other efforts to reduce global warming are receiving attention in states.

7. Minimum Wage. More than half the states already have a minimum wage that exceeds the federal rate, which itself may rise this year. NCSL expects this to be an issue that continues to get attention at the state level.

8. Higher Education Reform. Continuing price increases and affordability are just two of the issues that are driving the need for reform of the higher education system.

9. Privacy. States will turn their attention to identity theft, which is emerging as a major public policy concern across the country. Thirty-four already have passed some type of legislation.

10. Obesity. Following on the heels of New York City’s recent ban, NCSL expects states to wade into the trans fat debate, as well as other issues related to obesity (especially among children).

Monday, January 22, 2007


Sheridan on Local Government Funds

Read State Budgeting Matters this week for Richard Sheridan's answer to the question, "should (state) revenue sharing programs continue." State Budgeting Matters is a weekly web-based column published by The Center for Community Solutions that covers some of the most pressing state budget issues. You can email questions or feedback to Sheridan at

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Two Sessions for Policy Watchers & Advocates

Two of the workshops at Community Solutions' 65th annual Human Services Institute will be of special interest to public policy watchers and advocates: "Public Policy: Winning Change at the Ballot" and "A New Governor & Legislature, and a New State Budget." The Institute on Friday, March 23, 2007, features a luncheon address by Martin L. King, III, CEO of Realizing the Dream, Inc., as well as the opening presentation, "Leadership of Nonprofits in Changing Times." Throughout the day, 19 workshops will address health and social issues and provide continuing education credits in a variety of professional disciplines. Leaders of the Fund for Our Economic Future will present a special session at the end of the day. Learn more and register online.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Rumblings About Ratios

Lobbyists, legislators, and Statehouse watchers are quietly talking about now committee ratios may be adjusted to reflect the new partisan make up of the Statehouse.

In the previous 126th Ohio General Assembly there were 39 Democratic members of the Ohio House and 60 Republican members – the Republican majority had roughly 60 percent of the seats. But on the all important Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee they filled 65 percent of the committee seats (21) with Republican members while the Democrats were allotted the remaining 35 percent (11 seats). After last November’s election, Ohio House Republicans now hold roughly 53 percent of the House while Democrats hold the remaining 46 percent. So the question is will committee makeup be adjusted to reflect the change in the partisan make up of the Ohio House

If these ratios were applied to Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee membership the Republicans would see their committee seats drop from 21 to 17 and the Democrats would see their seats increase from 11 to 15. Of course the party in control isn’t required to apply such a strict test, and if the Republican House leadership decides they have to reduce seats their job would be made somewhat easier by the fact that several of their members won’t be returning because they lost their election or because of term limits.

Where ever the number ends up it seems clear that the Republican margin of control will be narrower – a defection of even one or two members (as had happened in the past on key amendments and bills) could change the outcome on critical budget votes. This would seem to mean that both Republican and Democrat leaders in the House will be carefully choosing members to sit on this and other important committees. Partisan loyalty will likely be a key consideration.

The committee ratios in the Ohio Senate are much closer. Democrats held 30 percent of the seats on the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee which more closely reflected the fact that they held 33 percent of the seats in the Ohio Senate as a whole. Their pick up of one seat now means they hold 36 percent of the Ohio Senate so they may also seek another seat on the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee so that the committee’s make up is consistent with the partisan make up of the chamber.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Ohio Has A New Medicaid Director

Cristal Thomas, the newly appointed Director of the Office of Ohio Health Plans (Medicaid), has strong Ohio roots. Cristal grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio and is a 1998 graduate of Ohio State University (she has a B.S. in Molecular Genetics). For the past year and a half she has been the Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services – an agency that has 2,300 employees and an annual budget of $15 billion. Thomas implemented the All Kids program in Illinois, which guaranteed healthcare coverage to all children in the state. The agency oversees the Illinois Medicaid, child support, and energy assistant programs. She was previously the Director of Strategic Planning for the agency. Thomas commented today, "I will work with Governor Strickland to fix Ohio's problems with the Medicaid system and make access to high-quality, affordable healthcare options a reality for all Ohioans."

Monday, January 08, 2007


Sheridan's Back!

Richard Sheridan, the author of Follow the Money and other books on state and local government, has returned to writing his weekly online column called State Budgeting Matters. His first column is State Budget Predictions for 2007. He starts off this column by reviewing his predictions from 2005 and letting us know where he was right and where he was wrong. Community Solutions is pleased to offer this online publication as a resource for state budget watchers. Let us know if you have ideas for topics that he might cover in the coming weeks.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Good News or Bad News, You Be the Judge

You might call it good news, or you might call it bad news. The good news is that Ohio is projected to see its federal match rate for Medicaid rise again in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2009. The bad news is that the rate increase is a reflection of our lousy Ohio economy.

The Federal Funds Information Service has released their projections for state Medicaid matching rates for FFY 2009 (which begins on October 1, 2008 so it includes 9 months of the SFY 2008-2009 state budget) and Ohio’s rate is projected to rise again to a rate of 61.98 percent. They estimate that this will bring Ohio at least another $179 million in federal Medicaid funds.

The total projected increased federal Medicaid match funding for FFY 08 and 09 is $337 million (this is the increase over the FFY 07 amounts). This can help take some of the pressure off the new Strickland administration and the Ohio General Assembly as they grapple with what promises to be a very difficult budget.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


New MRDD Director Spoke at 2003 Rally

Governor-elect Ted Stickland announced today that he is appointing John Martin to be the Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Mr. Martin was a speaker at the 2003 Emergency Campaign to Protect Ohio's Future April 9 Rally that drew nearly 5,000 people to the statehouse to protest budget cuts included in the Taft administration's proposed budget. Fortunately, with the help of Mr. Martin and others, we were able to defeat many of those cuts. It's great to see advocates who were willing in the past to step up and be counted, being brought into state government.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?