Proposal to Limit Spending is Too Vague, Group Says

Columbus Dispatch - July 26, 2005

Columbus Dispatch

by Jim Siegel

The proposed constitutional amendment limiting government spending is so vaguely worded that it could lead to years of legal battles, a nonprofit research group wrote in a study released today.

The amendment, pushed by a group led by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, limits spending growth and says political subdivisions are not required to fulfill state imposed mandates unless the state provides sufficient funds.

“The main headline for this proposal thus far has been the spending cap,” said Jon Honeck, a research analyst for Policy Matters Ohio. “But I think this clause about mandates is so wide open, it just would invite all sorts of litigation to get it sorted out.”

In a 15-page report called “Flawed by Design,” Honeck describes what he thinks are a number of problems with the amendment that could lead to potential pitfalls if the issue makes the ballot and is passed by voters.

One of the biggest concerns, he said, is the mandates provision. Schools, for example, have argued for years the state does not provide enough funding for things such as testing.

“The state testing and all that, could an individual school district just decide it s going to opt out? It could try,” Honeck said. “Then you’re left with this weird patchwork of regulations.”

But Gene Pierce, spokesman for Citizens for Tax Reform, which is collecting signatures to get the issue on the ballot, said Policy Matters Ohio is just grasping at straws.

“I think the intent of that is pretty clear,” he said. “There will be litigation only if the state
legislature chooses to ignore the vote of the people.”

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