Ohio Budget May Serve as a model for nation

The proposed Ohio budget may be the model of the fiscal frugality and compassionate action Christians are asking Congress to display in the national budget.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's proposed two-year budget closes up an $8 billion gap by minding tenets that concerned Christians believe could save the federal government.

The state 2011-2013 spending plan adopts waste-cutting measures by restructuring government agencies. Kasich's budget reduces 250 of the 371 general fund spending line items, totaling $2.3 billion in cuts. He also combined some medical agencies.

"We must reduce services that Ohioans have needed and received in the past but the state can no longer continue to provide," Kasich said at the proposal's unveiling on Tuesday.

The budget maintains funding for the state's Medicaid program, allotting $1 billion to the federal program. The budget also maintains metal health services and extends state healthcare coverage to local governments.

Ohio's budget seems to embrace and embody the top two tenets of the "Christian Proposal on the American Debt Crisis," a document recently sent to Congress members with orange "What Would Jesus Cut?" arm bands.

The proposal, signed by 19 Christian leaders including Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative founder Jonathan Merritt and Dr. Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, urge the federal government to cut spending it deems wasteful and to control healthcare expenses.

The Ohio budget fulfills the above recommendations while retaining the $800 million two-year income tax cut promised to state residents. Also, an additional $34 million in tax incentives would be set aside to create jobs.

So far, state officials bracing themselves for heavy cuts have reacted favorably to the proposed budget.

While the governor's proposal has been met with a better-than-predicted response, Kasich's pitch to raise state revenues by privatizing five of the state's jails and the state lottery may spark concerns of transparency.

"Taxpayers will have no idea how their money is being spent or where it is going," said Eddie Parks, president of the Ohio Civil Services Employees Association, of the plan.

Union leaders are also angry with the governor and Senate over a bill to amend their collective bargaining rights.

The governor is planning to hold community meetings to discuss the proposed budget.

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