COLUMBUS -- The Republican head of the Ohio Senate and the expected Democratic gubernatorial challenger offered contrasting views Thursday on the state of local government funding.
Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, offered a growing list of newspaper accounts from communities around the state with flush coffers and recovering budgets.
"Ohio's getting better," he said, adding, "Better still isn't good enough, but we're doing better, and in large part we're doing better because of steps we've taken to strengthen and improve the economy."
On the flip side, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald offered comments he's heard from communities and schools that are struggling to replace needed monies that were shifted into the state's rainy day fund or to cover tax cuts that benefit wealthier residents.
"I talk about this everywhere I go," FitzGerald said. "... When you talk to people in local communities, they know the police officer that's been laid off or the firefighter that's been laid off or the local tax that had to go up because the state's taking more of their money."
He added, "We're going to keep talking about it all year long."
The two spoke Thursday to a roomful of trustees as part of the winter conference of the Ohio Township Association.
Their positions on state funding for local governments and the trajectory of the Ohio economy likely will be repeated in coming months, as Republicans seek to retain the governor's office and state legislature and Democrats seek to unseat the majority party.
The former say their policies are helping to revive an economy that lost hundreds of thousands of jobs under the previous administration, while the latter say Republican policies have stifled a recovery that began before they took office.
Faber acknowledged cuts to the local government fund during the last biennial budget, when lawmakers and the governor tout filling an $8 billion gap. But those funds often represent a small percentage of local governments overall budgets, he said.
And he said some 85 percent of the state budget is returned to local governments, through funding of schools, health care (Medicaid) and other services. Plus, lawmakers bolstered the local government fund in the current two-year budget.
"Certainly, Ohio's doing a little better, so additional revenue has come into the state," Faber said. "I think it would be imprudent and a bad idea to do what Mr. FitzGerald and some others have called for, (spending) the state's rainy day fund, our savings account, by giving it to entities for one-time expenditures."
But FitzGerald said Kasich and Statehouse Republicans have lowered tax rates by cutting funding to local governments.
"I guess it's easy to cut taxes if you take somebody else's money," he said. "He's not paying for the tax cuts because our economy is growing that much, because we're one of the worst performing economies in the country in the last couple years."
He added, "... If you're just going to take revenue away from school districts and libraries and counties and townships and then congratulate yourself by cutting state taxes while local taxes are going up, I don't see what benefit that is to the taxpayer."