Tempers are flaring in Columbus as Ohio state government continues to function through a temporary budget. Democrats and Republicans have stepped up the political rhetoric, blaming each other for failure to enact a two-year state budget.
Failure in Columbus has ramifications throughout the state. While seven-day interim budgets such as those approved twice by the General Assembly may get the bills paid on a day-to-day basis, they make it impossible to engage in longer term planning. For example, officials in Ohio's hundreds of school districts, uncertain of how much state funding they will receive for the next two years, cannot finalize hiring plans for the academic year that begins in just a few weeks.
Monday, as legislators were preparing for a second seven-day interim budget, Gov. Ted Strickland hinted he may set a deadline. He told reporters he has "serious concerns" about approving a third interim budget, should a permanent two-year spending plan not be approved by early next week.
Should that happen - if Strickland refuses to sign another interim spending plan - state government could virtually shut down. With no authority to spend money, state agencies would not be able to function. No one - not Strickland and not his adversaries in budget deliberations - wants that to happen.
But we understand Strickland's concern. He and lawmakers have been in a deadlock for about two weeks over the governor's proposal to raise money by allowing slot machines at Ohio racetracks. It has appeared that little, if any, progress has been made in resolving the dispute.
We agree with Strickland's opponents on the gambling issue. However, it needs to be resolved. Lawmakers who do not agree with the plan to expand legalized gambling should offer an alternative. Strickland believes more gambling will raise $933 million for state government during the next two years. Those who oppose the plan should provide either a package of cuts in state spending or an alternative method of raising the $933 million.
The sooner lawmakers and Strickland begin discussing viable options, the sooner a permanent spending plan can be adopted for Ohio.