Every two years advocates get together in Cleveland to strategise about the upcoming budget for the State of Ohio. The group has largely failed over the last two budget cycles, but they do eek out a few victories. On a cold snow filled Saturday at the NEOCH/Community Shares offices, advocates met to discuss areas that they felt were important. There was a good crowd who gave up their Saturday afternoon to plow through the details of the Ohio budget.
They gave a status report for the their successes/failures over the last budget. The only successes were that the Ohio Housing Trust Fund was not cut and there was a state earned income tax credit was created. The Homestead exemptions was targeted to those over 65 making less than $30,000. Medicaid was expanded, but over the objections of the legislature. Every other recommendation failed with one incompletion. Some of the fails from the previous year:
- Education funding is still below 2010 levels.
- Childcare still has a cap on family income below federal guidelines.
- Recommended changes in Kinship care were not addressed.
- Adult Protective Services to protect seniors is still woefully underfunded.
- Alzheimer's respite care is half of the level from 2011.
- They did not expand Medicaid to all of those eligible and reimbursable by the federal government.
- No relief for those receiving cash assistance to provide flexibility over massive elimination of benefits.
- Sought additional money for hunger programs. They received some additional funding, but not enough to meet demands.
- No additional funding for transportation.
- Huge losses to local government funding for trash collection, fire, safety forces and other local government services.
Some of the big issues that those gathered are looking for in the next budget for 2015 include:
- Re-establishment of the tax on rich people who die called the estate tax.
- Re-establishment of the local government fund to the levels from 2010.
- Expansion of a housing search website in the state of Ohio
- A complete overhaul of the tax loopholes in the state of Ohio.
- A lifting of the cap off the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you are poor and don't pay enough in taxes, you should still get all the tax credit back.
- Re-establishment of a foreclosure assistance fund since those federal dollars are drying up.
- A reduction in the welfare case loads.
- An elimination of the work requirements for Food stamps throughout the state and not just the nine rural communities.
- Maintain and expand Medicaid expansion.
- Align the state cash assistance rules with the federal requirements. With higher than average unemployment in Ohio, we should provide assistance to families struggling in Ohio.
- Restore funding to the PASSPORT and the hunger programs in Ohio.
- Force ODOT to spend 3-5% of their budget on public transportation to serve the 9% of the public without driver's licenses.
The progressives, advocates and concerned citizens will probably not be heard down in Columbus, but it is good to have a positive agenda put forth to help low income, homeless and struggling Ohioans.
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