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Representative tells Democrats state trying to maintain programs

May 11, 2009:

Courtney Albon
Ashland Times Gazette

Despite the difficult economy, Rep. Jay Goyal, D-Mansfield, said state government is working to "make effective gains" without cutting programs important to Ohioans.

Goyal was the keynote speaker at the Ashland County Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner on Saturday. He focused on the key components of the state's biennial budget.

Gov. Ted Strickland on Tuesday announced the state's deficit could be as high as $10 billion — $3 billion more than originally thought. Goyal said though the deficit is a significant hit to the state's approximately $50 billion budget, legislators are using the resources available to try to avoid deep program cuts. Those resources include the state's rainy day fund, which totals about $1 billion, federal stimulus dollars and several "proactive" measures to cut state spending.

Goyal told the Times-Gazette that while he’s concerned about the state using one-time funds to balance its budget, the alternative could be worse.

"It's use it or lose it," Goyal said. "To reject those funds could mean even more significant cuts."

Goyal highlighted several key components of the proposed budget, including plans for education and health care reform and job creation.

One thing being overlooked in the media's coverage of the proposed education reforms — which are meant to shift the burden of school funding from local property taxpayers to the state — is that the implications reach beyond school doors and into the local economy, Goyal said.

"By investing in education, we are investing in our state's future economy and prosperity," Goyal said.

On higher education, legislators secured a tuition freeze at all the state's public four-year institutions through the 2009-10 school year. The following year, tuition can grow no more than 31⁄2 percent.

Goyal said health care reform also is a pressing issue on both a state and federal level. A member of the House Healthcare Access and Affordability committee, Goyal said significant, sweeping reforms must happen at the federal level for states to really see improvements. More than 1 million of the 11.2 million Ohio residents do not have access to health care.

The legislature also is working to create jobs and strengthen Ohio's work force by combining the state's industrial assets — manufacturing and agriculture — with "an eye for the future," Goyal said. Opportunities are growing for the state to be a lead source of manufacturing for wind farms and solar projects as well as using agriculture to find new ways to produce products such as plastic and rubber.

"We need to look at what we have and see how we can take those assets and create jobs of the future," Goyal said.

Also a guest at Saturday's event was Neil Patel, a Democrat running for the 2010 19th District Senate seat. Patel is an insurance agent and hotel owner and has served as both chairman and president of the Federation of Indian Associations.