COLUMBUS, Ohio – State agency heads will be lucky if they get to keep current funding levels when Gov. John Kasich rolls out the next state budget in the spring.
That’s the tone being set by a budget guidance document released Monday by Kasich’s administration that asks state agencies to plan a pair of scenarios for the 2014-15 budget — one where they see no growth in funding and a second in which agencies are hit with a 10 percent cut in general revenue funds.
Monday’s directive from state budget director Tim Keen, the first brick in the wall for the next operating budget, which needs to be fully constructed by July 2013, asks agencies to come up with spending plans based on receiving 100 percent and 90 percent of current levels. Those plans are due to state budget officials this fall.
The no-growth scenarios may sound a tad gloomy, but it’s been pretty much the norm in recent years as Ohio’s budgets have been battered by revenue shortages from a turbulent economy.
“We get good information out of this that we are able to adapt to the individual circumstances of agencies and programs and the economic circumstances we may be faced with as we put together this budget down the road in six months,” said Keen.
Monday’s guidance from Keen is the same that previous Gov. Ted Strickland asked state agencies to plan for in July 2010, and it’s actually slightly rosier than in July 2008, when Strickland had state bureaucrats preparing for a budget at 95 or 90 percent of current spending levels.
Keen may be asking for state agencies to hold the line, but state monthly financial reports show top budget officials expect to see modest growth in the near future. On June 11, the state’s most recent monthly financial report predicted “uninterrupted growth at a modest pace both nationally and in Ohio.”
Other signs of Ohio’s fiscal health include state tax receipts for this fiscal year being nearly $400 million above projections, and a healthy $1.26 billion more than what was collected last year.
Keen characterized Ohio’s fiscal rebound as “sluggish” and said modest gains don’t equal a bright financial picture for the next state budget.
“We are experiencing the slowest economic recovery in the post-war era, and we think we are going to continue to have that kind of recovery,” Keen said. “That does set the tone, and we have to be careful and cautious and take a good hard look at our resources.”