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Conservative Group Warns Of Wasteful Spending In State Budget

A conservative think tank says there is wasteful spending in this and every two-year state budget plan. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.

For many years, the conservative think tank the Buckeye Institute has been critical of the growth in state spending, which the group feels has risen far beyond what’s reasonable.  The group’s Piglet Book is modeled after the Congressional Pig Book produced by a national government spending watchdog group. The Buckeye Institute says state spending in the budget should grow no more than 3%, which could save $1.9 billion, but it notes that overall general revenue spending has grown more than that in the last two budgets. But the Piglet Book goes beyond that in pointing to specific programs, commissions and areas that get state money and – in the Buckeye Institute’s view – shouldn’t. Statehouse Liaison and Policy Analyst Greg Lawson says the group has always believed there are certain venues where private business should be in charge. “When government strays into that area, where it’s kind of encroaching where the private sector can do it and oftentimes can do it better, we think it should be left to that,” said Lawson.  
And Lawson says that with some of these investments, the state is picking winners and losers and going beyond what he calls core government functions. “From some of the ways in which Third Frontier grants are done, to the grape industries thing where they’re promoting through basically a portion of the wine tax advertising for a specific industry, these are things that the industries themselves can take care of this.”  
The Piglet Book criticizes what it calls “corporate welfare” in the millions paid to programs promoting Ohio’s agriculture, tourism and technology industries. For instance, it notes $157 million went to the high-tech Third Frontier program, the funding for which was approved by voters in 2005 and reauthorized in 2010.  The Piglet Book also criticizes what it calls “government advocacy and philanthropy”, calling out $10 million that goes to the Ohio History Connection, which used to be known as the Ohio Historical Society, and the nearly $21 million in subsidies to the Ohio Arts Council. Linda Woggon is with Ohio Citizens for the Arts, which lobbies for arts organizations around the state. And Woggon she says money that goes to the arts comes back in a big way. “Every dollar that the Ohio Arts Council gives out in grants attracts $53 in local and private matches,” said Woggon. “So it’s a great investment of taxpayer money to stimulate the creative economy.”  
And the Piglet Book also points to nearly $16 million spent on three groups – the Office of Consumers’ Counsel, the Commission on Minority Health and the Commission on Hispanic Affairs. Joe Mas is a board member emeritus of the Ohio Hispanic Coalition. Mas says there’s always been opposition to funding commissions like these in the state budget, but they’re critical to informing state lawmakers of the needs of that growing community. “They’re commissions that serve a population that is underserved and that needs someone to bring the issues that affect that community, and actually affect the broader community to the attention of state government,” said Mas.  
And the Piglet Book also blasts $8.2 million to the Broadcast Education Media Commission, which supports Ohio’s public radio and television stations.  
A spokesman for Gov. John Kasich said in response to the Buckeye Institute’s report – quoting here – “Ohio’s budget is among the nation’s strongest, thanks to the governor’s continued focus on efficient management in state government and ongoing commitment to fiscal discipline.  Restrained spending is the formula that has helped us return more than $3 billion back to Ohioans in the form of tax cuts.”

Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.
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