State Senator Mark Wagoner, R-Toledo, had plenty of reservations about the $50.5-billion, two-year state
budget that passed this week.
The expansion of video lottery gambling and cuts in spending for libraries and higher education were
among the thorny issues.
But in the end Wagoner, the Senate’s majority whip, along with the rest of the Republican leadership team
voted in favor of the budget.
"We realized we had negotiated with the governor for a long time and we realized the budget had to
go forward," he said Wednesday morning.
The state needed a budget. "You don’t get everything," he said.
Still he pushed to give voters the opportunity to vote on whether they wanted video gambling at the
state’s race tracks. Gov. Ted Strickland insisted that his office could put it in place with an
executive order. But the legislature, he said, was able to put up "guardrails."
Those include limits on campaign contributions from the gaming industry and a provision that any legal
challenge to the plan will head straight to the Ohio Supreme Court.
"We will have the court decide this in an expeditious manner," he said.
Wagoner said he believes there are constitutional problems with Strickland’s new gaming scheme.
Also, the budget did restore some money for public libraries and the early learning initiative, but not
enough, he said. And he is disappointed in cuts to higher education, and the provision that allows the
state’s public colleges and universities to raise tuition, after two years under a tuition cap.
There were victories including stopping a plan to not deposit $250 million into state workers’ pension
Also as part of the new education initiative, the legislature was able to get waivers from some new
mandates for schools that have earned excellent ratings.
Some of the budget issues may be revisited over the next two years as state spending has to be adjusted.
"Given the economic environment we will have to visit these again," he said.
"We rely on the governor’s office to provide revenue estimates," Wagoner said. Those estimates
have been adjusted several times, always downward.
"There’s not a lot of confidence that the estimates the governor is providing will be accurate long
term. We just don’t know what the state’s revenues will be."