Ohio is once again facing an upcoming budget process with an anticipated shortfall of nearly 8 billion dollars. In the past, lawmakers have been reluctant to take a balanced approach that included a serious look at increasing revenues, from increased taxes to closing business loopholes. Without such an approach, the old "slash and cut" method will severely impact the needy, poor and vulnerable in our state. As a faith based entity, the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry views government budgets as moral documents and reflective of the values and priorities of our society. We desire State of Ohio lawmakers to take action and to safeguard the supportive services for the vulnerable, poor and needy in addition to supporting economic development and establishing a more efficient form of government.
The last budget process resulted in cuts to education, early childhood education, hunger programs, library services, and mental health and substance abuse treatment – cuts made in response to a deficit less than ¼ of the one facing the state today. This means that we could be looking at four times as many cuts in services that make Ohio a productive, competitive, and compassionate place to live. Moreover, with recent reports showing 1 in 8 Ohioans now living in poverty, we know further cuts to Ohio’s health and human services programming will have devastating effects. More and more of Ohio’s families are finding themselves for the first time turning to state and local charitable organizations for assistance in meeting the basic human needs of their family.
It is our hope that you will use the power of your office to fight for a balanced solution that keeps the needs of all Ohioans – including your constituents – at the center of the debate. As you approach this problem, we ask that you:
• Refrain from signing no-tax pledges
• Keep all options, including new revenue sources, on the table
• Protect health and human services in the state budget
• Discuss the state budget process and potential outcomes openly with constituents.
In addition, I would like to inform you about a coalition of organizations and citizens working on this issue. Advocates for Budget Legislation Equality (ABLE) is a grassroots organization that has been working on this issue since 2003. They will be working over the next 10 months across northern Ohio to ensure that our state protects and strengthens all of its residents. They are planning a Lobby Day at the State Capital in the near future to discuss this issue with state officeholders. We hope that you will take time to meet with them and share your position on this issue.
Lastly, I pray that you will embrace in a bipartisan and civil approach to this matter and avoid the traditional “partisan wrangling” of our day which only results in more devastation and impoverishment.