Kasich’s 2012 Budget: Good for Higher Ed.; Bad for K-12, Local Governments
Ohio Gov. John Kasich released his biennial 2012-13 budget proposal Tuesday, which includes expected cuts to higher education and massive cuts to K-12 and local government funding.
In a press release, Kasich called the budget a “groundbreaking proposal that closes an $8 billion projected budget gap through significant government reforms and carefully-considered spending reductions.”
Higher education is one of many areas addressed by the proposal.
The proposed budget increases the State Share of Instruction (SSI) — the amount of funding the state dedicates to higher education — by 2.7 percent in 2012 and .9 percent in 2013. However, according to the budget, overall funding for higher education will still fall 10.5 percent. This is due largely to a loss in stimulus dollars allotted by the 2008 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Despite that, Ohio University President Roderick McDavis said in an e-mail to students, “the news today is better than originally projected.”
OU originally estimated that it would see a $27 million reduction in state funding, but now projects only a $16.2 million because of the increase in SSI, according to McDavis’ e-mail. The net reduction will cut across the OU community, with an $11.8 million decrease to OU’s Athens campus, a $1.5 million cut to the College of Osteopathic Medicine and a $2.9 million reduction to regional campuses. The biennial draft also cuts funding for OU’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.
Including estimated increases in health care costs and utilities, OU now projects an overall deficit of $19.7 million.
In addition, OU still hopes to receive an overdue SSI payment totaling $9.2 million that the state has yet to pay.
“[U]niversities will receive the lapsed SSI payment, if the state’s economy remains stable and in balance,” McDavis said.
Pam Benoit, OU’s Executive Vice President and Provost, echoed the president’s optimism at a meeting with press on Tuesday.
“It could be much worse,” she said. “Look at Pennsylvania, which recently announced last week, a 50 percent cut to education.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett slashed his state’s funding of higher education by more than $1 billion last week. His budget included a $182 million cut to Penn State University — the largest single education cut in history.
Kasich’s budget also maintains a 3.5 percent cap on tuition increases — a policy first implemented by former Gov. Ted Strickland — a continuation that the university supports.
“This seems consistent with what [we expected] in terms of tuition caps,” Benoit said.
A controversial portion of the budget draft will require universities to create plans to transition many of their academic programs into 3-year degrees. According to Kasich’s budget overview, “the plan to transition 10 percent of their programs will be due in 2012 and a plan to transition 60 percent of their programs will be due in 2014.”
Benoit said that the university was not made aware of the provision until Tuesday.
“This was the first we had heard about it,” she said. “That’s one of the things that we’ll certainly be asking a lot more questions about, and about what the intentions are behind those kinds of recommendations from the governor’s office.”
Benoit added that the university had discussed making such changes before, to programs like the Honors Tutorial College.
Although cuts to OU’s funding were lower than expected, OU officials expressed caution about the budget moving forward.
“[This] does not negate the challenges that we have,” said Eric Burchard, OU’s interim director of governmental relations, who participated in the Tuesday press meeting. “On one hand, [we recognize] that the governor was supportive, while on the other hand, [we recognize] that the challenges are still there, and we have a lot of work to do.”
Kasich’s budget largely spares higher education funding from expansive cuts; K-12 education does not fare as well.
Like with SSI funding, the budget draft does increase funding for K-12 education by 2 percent in 2012 and 1.5 percent in 2013, but it amounts to a drastic reduction considering the loss of stimulus funding.
Funding to K-12 will decrease by 11.5 in 2012, plus an additional 4.9 percent in 2013, which amounts to a more than 16 percent cut over two years totaling nearly $1.3 billion.
Athens’ state Sen. Jimmy Stewart said he wasn’t aware of the cuts to K-12 education, adding, “It’s premature for me to comment until I’ve read the whole thing.”
The budget also eliminates funding for programs such as Violence Prevention and School Safety, Drug-Free Schools and Gifted Education.
State Rep. Debbie Phillips, who represents the 92nd district, said that the education cuts went too deep.
“One of the things Gov. Strickland did was really protect K-12 and higher education, because both are so important to the long term outlook of the state,” Phillips said.
Local government funding receives the sharpest reductions according to Kasich’s budget proposal.
The draft cuts the local government fund, which produces nearly $650 million each year, by 50 percent. The fund will endure 25 percent reductions in 2012 and again in 2013, amounting to a combined $465 million reduction.
Since 2008, 3.68 percent of Ohio tax dollars have gone into the local government fund, which pays for local government services and projects including parks and playgrounds, community centers and road improvements.
Phillips said the cuts to local government funding would make it difficult for many southeast Ohio towns to provide services that people expect.
“We have townships with 30 or 40 miles of road to maintain and very little money to do it,” she said. “For all the talk of giving local governments the flexibility they need to do shared purchasing—it’s still a matter of how much you can purchase.”
In order to further reduce Ohio’s budget shortfall without raising taxes, Kasich’s proposal also cuts Medicaid, and includes plans to privatize five of Ohio’s prisons.
Although the budget was announced Tuesday, Phillips cautioned that the legislative language of the proposal had not yet been written.
“The Bluebook provides the executive overview of the budget, but the budget language hasn’t been completed,” she said. “That means none of the district breakouts have been finalized.”
Once the budget language is completed, the bill will likely be amended by the GOP-controlled House. After passage, it will move to the Senate where Republicans also hold the majority. The final budget must be approved by both chambers.Share