By J.D. Davidson
In Ohio, there’s the budget the General Assembly passes each year to run state government and fund other programs. Then, there’s the real budget.
It’s that second budget that tends to leave taxpayers in the dark when it comes to the true cost of government, according to an independent think tank that examines public policy in the state.
The Buckeye Institute says the state’s shadow budget needs to be taken into account in order for taxpayers to fully understand how much the state spends.
“Ohio’s biennial budget process is about to begin – the first budget planned during the COVID-19 pandemic and one that will require sound fiscal strategies to overcome the unique challenges the pandemic presents,” Greg Lawson, a research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, said. “Such strategies can only be achieved by shining a light on Ohio’s shadow budget.
Lawson did just that in a new policy brief called “Beware the Shadow Budget: Ohio Spends More than Many Think.”
In the brief, Lawson points out Ohio’s expenditures will cost taxpayers more than $153 billion, more than double the $69 billion that tends to be called Ohio’s budget.
Lawson said the General Fund budget, which typically is the budget that gets most of the attention in the media, does not include things like the state’s capital budget, the budget for the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and Industrial Commission, the transportation budget and other state spending.
“Suggesting that ‘Ohio’s budget’ was a mere $69 billion is grossly misleading and makes it difficult for voters and taxpayers to accurately assess the size, scope and cost of their government,” Lawson wrote in his brief. “And keeping taxpayers in the dark about government spending undermines accountability for state officials and policymakers.”
Lawson recommends the state adopt enhanced transparency measures such as a state checkbook, strengthen the Statutory Appropriation Limitation, tie non-emergency spending growth to the state’s population and inflation growth and report all state spending, rather than just the General Revenue Fund.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine continues to work on his budget for the next two years, and it’s expected to be unveiled Feb. 1.
Earlier this week he announced $390 million in cuts to state agencies, while ordering $160 million, which was previously withheld, to be given to K-12 schools, along with another $100 million to higher education.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.