From Dayton Daily News…
Chamber recommendations would create $1.4B in state savings, help plug budget hole
By William Hershey
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce and eight metro chambers of commerce around the state - including the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce - on Monday unveiled sweeping changes in state budgeting that backers said could save $1.4 billion over the next two years and billions more in the future.
Release of the report comes as Gov.-elect John Kasich and the state legislature next year face a revenue shortfall projected as high as $8 billion as they begin work on a new two-year-budget.
“Redesigning Ohio”, prepared at a cost of $150,000, would:
*Examine tax breaks that cost the state $7.7 billion annually and keep those that produce economic growth and consider ending those that don’t.
*Reduce prison costs by closing three prisons over the next two years and moving nonviolent offenders from adult prisons to non-residential, community-based monitoring and treatment.
*Reduce or cap “costly real property tax rollbacks.”
*End automatic pay raises through step increases and longevity pay for state workers and base merit-based bonuses on “objective performance measures.”
*Require a shared, 50-50 employee/employer contribution for state pensions and retiree health insurance.
*Use a “carrot and stick” approach with local governments to produce savings; earmark 15 percent of the local government fund next year and 20 percent in the following year for local government reform projects.
Gov.-elect John Kasich, through spokesman Rob Nichols, welcomed the report saying the chambers “have put forth some serious ideas that deserve serious consideration.”
Chris Kershner, vice president of public policy and economic development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the changes are “going to take political will to accomplish.”
Kershner and other chamber leaders from around the state unveiled the report at a Columbus news conference.
In a prepared statement, Eddie L. Parks, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, gave the report a mixed reaction.
The union, which represents about 35,000 public employees, agrees with improving efficiency and effectiveness to make sure “taxpayers get the biggest bang for their buck,” he said.
However, recommendations such as adapting business practices for government might run afoul of regulations and rules in place to protect taxpayers, Parks said.
The report did not cover two major areas of state spending - primary and secondary education and Medicaid. The Ohio Business Roundtable, a partnership of the chief executives of the state’s major businesses, is working on those issues, chamber leaders said.
The report has a bipartisan pedigree. To prepare it, the chambers worked with policy consultant David Osborne, a former adviser to Democratic Vice President Al Gore, and Greg Browning, state budget director under Republican Gov. George Voinovich.
“I think the Chamber of Commerce’s budget recommendations are likely to be taken very seriously ,” John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, said.