Strickland stumps for budget
Governor traveling state to pitch 2-year, $52.9 billion spending plan
Posted on 4.2.07
Saturday, March 31, 2007
By Mark Niquette
WILBERFORCE, Ohio -- Standing in a science building on the campus of Central State University yesterday, Gov. Ted Strickland didn't sugarcoat why he was there.
"I'm just going to be crass about this," Strickland said. "I'm doing this so that the public can become more fully informed regarding what we're trying to do, and it is my hope that as the public becomes fully informed, they will become increasingly supportive of our efforts."
As the Republican-controlled legislature begins debating Strickland's two-year, $52.9 billion budget, the Democratic governor is taking his proposals involving education, health care and other issues on the road to generate support.
With TV cameras rolling, Strickland made stops earlier this week in Dayton, Columbus, Bowling Green and Zanesville, and yesterday he visited Central State and went back to Dayton.
Strickland has visits planned to elementary schools in Kenton, Bellefontaine, Springfield and Jackson on Monday and Tuesday.
Not all the stops so far have been picture-perfect photo opportunities to promote the governor's spending plan.
At the Children's Medical Center in Dayton, where Strickland stopped yesterday to sell his early-childhood and health-care initiatives, hospital administrators were thrilled that the governor came to visit but weren't happy that his budget calls for cutting $30 million in supplemental state and federal Medicaid aid for children's hospitals.
The proposed cut would mean about $1 million less a year for the Dayton hospital, where more than half of the emergency-room patients last year were on Medicaid, officials said. The governor said cutting the funding was a difficult budget choice because of limited resources.
But he's confident that his public appearances can help get his proposals approved by generating public backing for them.
Officials at Central State, for example, haven't yet signed on to the governor's proposal that public colleges and universities freeze tuition this fall and limit any increase next year to less than 3 percent in exchange for increased state funding.
"We're working the numbers right now," university President John W. Garland said before welcoming Strickland.
Addressing the proposal during a visit Thursday at Ohio State University, which also has not yet decided whether to sign on, Strickland said, "The only way this is going to happen is if there is the kind of grass-roots support that we think will communicate to the legislature that this is something that's good for Ohio."
Ashlee Warren, 18, a freshman at Central State, said yesterday that she was not aware of the governor's plan but was all for it after hearing the details.
Tuition increased 6 percent last year at Central State, and Warren is worried about where she would find the extra money if tuition increased again next year.
"It would definitely be harder for me," she said, adding that she chose Central State because it is close to her home in Columbus and is the state's only public historically black college.
Paul Beck, a political-science professor at Ohio State University, said Strickland appears to be off to a good start and is enjoying a honeymoon period as a new governor.
But his proposals also appear to be coming across as reasonable and not overly partisan, which is an advantage for the governor in the early budget wrangling, Beck said.
"If he's able to occupy the high ground, then the legislature has a real challenge," he said.
Even so, House Speaker Jon A. Husted, R-Kettering, also has vowed to appeal directly to the court of public opinion to make his case for school vouchers, charters and other issues Strickland opposes in his budget.
When Strickland was asked whether his message is getting through after meeting patients and doctors while touring the Children's Medical Center yesterday, he replied, "I hope so."
"It's early in the budget process, and I understand there's a give and take," he said. "But I want people to feel engaged and to feel like they've got a stake in the decisions that are being made in Columbus."
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