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About 1 ½ years ago, Gov. Ted Strickland started working on an economic recovery plan for Ohio. He and his advisers came up with scenarios that ranged from best case to worst case. Shortly after that, he made his first round of cuts — $733 million.
“I’m glad I did it,” he said during an interview on Ohio Farm Bureau's radio program Town Hall Ohio. “A lot of people were saying ‘Why are you doing this?’ If I wouldn’t have made those initial cuts, it would have been almost impossible to achieve a balanced budget.”
Since that time, Strickland has made two more rounds of cuts for a total of $1.9 billion with more proposed in his two-year budget.
“I’m proud that we have more than 3,000 fewer state employees now than when I became governor,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to reduce the number of state employees and in order to do that, we’ve got to look for efficiencies and do things more effectively.”
Strickland talked at length about Ohio’s economic situation and his challenges as governor last month during his third appearance on the program.
“As governor, you’ve got to make tough decisions. They’re not always pleasant decisions, but they’ve got to be made,” he said.
While Strickland predicted that Ohio’s unemployment rate will surpass 10 percent, he said Ohio is in a better position than other states such as Florida and Arizona, which have experienced dramatic drops in home values. He said he was optimistic that Ohio would recover from its economic slide but only with the right decisions, which might rock the status-quo.
“What I’m trying to get people to understand is that these are very unusual times,” he said. “We can’t do everything we’ve always done in the past. We’ve got to make changes.”
Some of those changes affect agriculture. Strickland’s budget calls for reducing funding for Ohio State University Extension from $23.5 million this year to $21 million in 2010 and $20 million in 2011. The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) would see its current funding cut from $35.5 million to $33.5 million in 2010 and $31.8 million in 2011.
Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Jack Fisher told Strickland that restoring Extension and OARDC funding is a priority for OFBF. He said the groups are vital for creating leaders and conducting research and resources for the agricultural community.
Strickland’s reaction was that many government and business sectors in Ohio will face cuts.
“My mantra is shared sacrifice,” said Strickland, noting that he plans to take a pay cut and pays for all of his family’s health insurance. “I wish I could serve as governor during a time of economic growth and prosperity but I’m being forced to make incredibly hard decisions.”
The governor said he plans to wisely use federal funds offered to Ohio to stimulate its economy. He said $750,000 of that money will go toward food safety programs and $700,000 to start a motor fuel standard testing program, which is found in most states. Another $150,000 will go toward the Livestock Environmental Permitting Program, which will save 20 full-time positions.
Strickland said he remains committed that all children in Ohio should have access to health care coverage, noting that the cost is
significantly lower than that of adults. He also said programs are now in place that should allow children to have coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Strickland ran out of time to talk at length about his education reform plan. He said, however, that he is committed to overhauling Ohio’s school funding formula, extending the school year by 20 days, making kindergarten full-day in all districts and removing ineffective teachers from the classroom.