You Paid For It: Balancing the state checkbook

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — After nearly a year of budget estimates being off, some lawmakers want to overhaul the budget making process in Ohio.

This would shift power away from the Governor’s office and into the hands of legislators. While balancing the budget earlier this year lawmakers found themselves trying to fill a nearly billion dollar budget gap that they did not know existed until weeks before the budget was due. Lawmakers say this forced them to slash the budget left and right. Lawmakers now want more accountability so it does not happen again.

“Myself and 98 other members of the legislature, we’re reading in the newspaper that we had a $900 million dollar shortfall, that’s absolutely ludicrous,” said Representative Christina Hagan (R-Alliance).

Hagan wants more accountability and transparency in the process.

“That’s not how we operate in our homes, that’s not how we should operate in our state budget,” Hagan added, “We can’t make positive or sound financial decisions for the state, when we are given information days or weeks before a vote is cast.”

Right now the Governor’s office reports to the legislator every two years on the state budget, Hagan wants to change that. She has introduced a new bill that would create an Impartial Financial Outlook Council filled with not lawmakers but appointed financial experts by the Senate President, House Speaker and Governor’s office.

Hagan believes the council could not only help improve Ohio’s AA debt service rating but provide long range forecasts into the future by, “The people that truly know and understand a budgetary circumstance,” Hagan said. Right now Hagan believes the process is too politically motivated. “The problem is the way we get the numbers they are persuaded by political parties,” Hagan said.

Ohio Governor John Kasich’s office declined to comment to NBC4, saying the bill is too early in the process.

The bill does have the backing of Ohio Republicans.

“Finding ways to be efficient, transparent and responsible with taxpayer dollars is always a priority for House Republicans, so Speaker Rosenberger commends Representative Hagan for bringing forth this idea,” said Brad Miller, a spokesman for House speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s office. “House Bill 320 is still in the very early stages of the legislative process. Therefore the Speaker believes the legislation deserves thorough and deliberative review in committee and the public and opportunity to fully explore its merits,” Miller added.

Hagan introduced a similar bill in the past, but hopes after last fiscal years, budget bust, this time state leaders learn from their mistakes, “I think now is the ripest opportunity to insert accuracy and transparency in the process for all parties involve,” Hagan said.

This is the first week lawmakers are back from summer session. House bill 320 has been assigned to the House Financial Institutions Housing and Urban Development Committee.

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