Kirk Dougal/Times Bulletin
Ohio Senator Steve Buehrer came to Van Wert Friday afternoon to speak at the Van Wert County Republican Club’s luncheon held at the Willow Bend Country Club. Sen. Buehrer addressed the state’s economy and budget, as well as his bill called Grants for Grads.
BY KIRK DOUGAL
Times Bulletin Editor
State Senator Steve Buehrer was in Van Wert on Friday and the items on the top of his list were the state's economy and budget.
During a speech to the Van Wert County Republican Club's luncheon, Buehrer said that part of his solution to the economic situation in Ohio is his priority bill Grants for Grads. The bill has been created to address the idea of "brain drain" from Ohio. He pointed out that a lot of state taxpayer money is being used to encourage high school students to attend higher education after graduation. The problem is those same students who grew up in Ohio and maybe went to college at Ohio State or Bowling Green are then turning around after receiving their bachelor degrees and leaving the state.
Grants for Grads is modeled after a Louisiana program that gives money to college graduates for a down payment on a house if they choose to stay in Ohio. The idea is that as more college graduates stay in state, the more attractive the workforce will be to prospective employers of white collar and highly skilled workers. His belief is that as more graduates stay and employers move in, the increased tax base will more than pay for the incentives. The first part, however, is changing the trend from graduates leaving to graduates staying in Ohio.
He also spoke in general terms of Gov. Strickland's new budget which has still not been released in whole. The visit was timely, however, because of what has happened in Washington in last 24 hours. With an agreement worked out between the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives on their separate economic stimulus bills, it now appears Ohio will not be receiving as much economic stimulus funds as had been originally estimated. Unofficial numbers at this time are showing the state will receive about $1 billion less, subject to change. The major problem with a smaller stimulus package is that Strickland's Ohio budget was balanced based upon those monies and now is at least $1 billion in the red. Now the question becomes: Can Gov. Strickland balance the budget and continue to do all the things he promised in his State of the State address?
"I think the simple answer is no," said Buehrer. "I don't think he can do all the new things he has promised to people and have a balanced budget - now or in two years when the next budget is due. I just think that it would mandate a tax increase if he tries." He agreed with the governor who has said there will be some tough decisions to make but Buehrer believes the time to do that is now and not in two years when the hole might be even deeper.
Buehrer also stressed that the landscape in Columbus has changed. Two years ago after Governor Strickland became the first Democratic leader of Ohio in 16 years. He said at that point it was evident that both sides of the aisle would need to work together and cooperate to be able to pass legislation. He was pleased to report that in many regards that cooperation and willingness to talk through issues was achieved.
But now that the Democrats are also in charge of the House of Representatives as well, the tone has changed. With only the State Senate as an opposing viewpoint, Buehrer believes that the attitude is beginning to change. To that end, he is advocating that Republicans and conservatives choose several topics that they can promote and be for rather than falling into the trap of only being against issues.
"People are asking more and more of government whether we like that or not," he said. "People think that government's place is a larger role in helping with the banking situation, helping with the job creation and other things."