Doug Stanley, director of the Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action Program (HAPCAP), said at the May 24 One Ohio Now meeting in Athens to discuss the state budget proposal that while his agency should not be hurt directly by the state budget, it could be greatly impacted by cuts to the next federal budget.
“We’re very concerned,” Stanley said. Many of the programs that Community Action agencies use to help people living in need are at risk of being cut significantly in the next federal budget.
“Fiscal year 2012 is going to be a huge battle for funding,” Stanley said. He added that state and federal government leaders are taking the wrong approach when they only talk about making cuts in order to solve their budget problems.
“It’s not just spending,” Stanley said. The U.S. has cut its tax rates to very low levels, which has contributed to the budget problems. “But we keep talking about cutting taxes,” Stanley said.
Eric Young, superintendent of the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, explained that his agency is also facing significant cuts in the state budget proposal. In addition, many of the families who receive services from his agency also receive services from other local agencies that are facing state funding cuts.
Wendy Patton, who works with Policy Matters, said that while many people are understandably confused about how the state budget closes an $8 billion gap, a few huge funding cuts make up a large part of the difference. Education loses $2.1 billion in funding, local governments lose $1 billion, higher education is facing significant cuts and other cuts are being made all across state government.
By taking money from local governments, Patton said, state leaders are trying to solve their problem by passing the problem on to the local governments.
And by cutting funding for public education, state leaders are causing problems for the public schools and putting the schools on the path to having up to 50 children in a classroom in some districts, Patton said.
She added that while state leaders are cutting funding for vital programs and services, they are also talking about cutting taxes again, even though it has not been proven that cutting taxes produces jobs or economic development.
Patton encouraged everyone to contact their state senators to tell them to protect funding for vital services and to take a more balanced approach to the budget, including looking at ways to bring in revenue rather than just continuing to cut taxes and cut funding.
She also reminded those in attendance that the state already cut income taxes significantly in 2005, promising that the cuts would result in more job opportunities and economic development.
“I’m here to tell you, it didn’t happen,” Patton said.