Monday, December 20, 2010

DBJ... Ohio chambers seek state budget changes

From Dayton Business Journal…
Ohio chambers seek state budget changes
by Joe Cogliano , DBJ Staff Reporter
Monday, December 20, 2010

The state of Ohio needs to shake up its budgeting process and make it easier to comply with regulations in order to heal financially and drive economic development, according to a new report.
A coalition of metropolitan chambers of commerce from around Ohio — including the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce — unveiled those recommendations Monday morning in Columbus following a year-long study of ways Ohio’s government can improve performance and reduce costs as a result of budget crunches brought on by the recession.
Dubbed “Redesigning Ohio,” the study outlined 10 areas where the state could perform better, which chamber officials said would then spur economic development.
“Change must occur and by making government more responsive, more accountable and more efficient, it will be able to better adapt to the evolving needs of Ohio’s business community,” said Phil Parker, president and chief executive officer of the Dayton chamber.
Among its other findings, the study recommended that Ohio:
• Make state agencies become more entrepreneurial by forcing them to earn revenue by selling their services to other agencies, often in competition with the private sector. This includes areas such as information technology, vehicle/fleet management and facility management;
• Conduct a cost-benefit analysis of tax credits currently on the books;
• Limit civil service compensation increases to merit-based raises, eliminating automatic raises and longevity pay;
• Require state employees to pay half of state pension contributions and retiree health insurance;
• Limit “double dipping” to extraordinary situations; and
• Send low-risk, nonviolent, nonsexual felony offenders (level 4 and 5) to community-based treatment options instead of prison. That, coupled with other suggestions, could allow the state to close three prisons over two years.
Chamber officials said the report is not intended to be a complete solution to an estimated $6 billion to $8 billion budget deficit, but instead is meant to reform the way state government and more than 3,700 local political subdivisions work together.
“This is a balanced political approach that will allow the governor and the legislature to review and understand benchmarks from other states and identify barriers to advancement in Ohio,” Parker said.
The Dayton chamber, along with seven other chambers and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, funded the study.

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