It's our budget. Let's make it reflect our values.
While we will always remember 2020 as a desperately hard year, most Ohioans have come together and helped each other through. We’ve taken meals to sick neighbors. We’ve supported our favorite local restaurants and shops. We’ve worn masks to keep each other safe. Even with a vaccine nearly ready, we’ll still have to hang on a bit longer. Thousands of people are getting infected by the coronavirus every day. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans laid off in the pandemic recession will lose their federal unemployment compensation the day after Christmas; tens of thousands could lose their homes when the federal eviction moratorium expires shortly thereafter. The hard year is getting worse.
This pandemic and recession revealed deep cracks in Ohio’s necessary public services, eroded by years of tax cuts for the wealthy and tax breaks for special interests. The state was ill-prepared for the sudden crisis. While the federal government provided critically important aid early on, much expires at the end of this year. With the federal government failing to help now, Ohioans can demand our state lawmakers leverage our public resources to get Ohioans through the pandemic recession and to make our state stronger and more resilient in the future.
Every two years, before the governor introduces his budget proposal, Policy Matters Ohio publishes our guide to the state budget. This year we’ve called it “Our state. Our community. Our budget.” The state budget belongs to us. We pay for it with our taxes. We hope our budget guide helps demystify the process for more Ohioans so we can push our leaders to craft a budget that meets our needs.
State lawmakers will start to discuss the state budget for state fiscal years 2022-23 in February. The decisions they make will be critical to how we recover. With the right choices, Ohio could recover into a state where more people can regularly see a doctor and where we have the resources to contain a disease outbreak. We can live in a state where all children, no matter their race or where they live, get an excellent public school education; a state where all Ohioans can live in safe, decent homes that stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter; where all Ohioans have enough food to eat. Lawmakers can do a better job if they respond to the pressing needs of the people and stop cutting taxes for the wealthy. If they make the wrong choice, too many of us will face years of economic hardship, particularly Ohioans who live in communities of color and/or poor rural communities.
Ohio’s lawmakers should start by fully funding the 34 recommendations of the Minority Health Strike Force. This will start to address the structural racism that has created racial health disparities, causing the COVID-19 pandemic to hit communities of color hardest. The recommendations in education, preschool, health care, housing, broadband, public transit, workforce training and other areas will help not only Black and brown Ohioans, but all Ohioans struggling in the recession. In so doing, it will make our communities more vibrant and build a better future for all of us.
Your voice is critical to the outcome of this budget, the recovery, and our future. Take action:
- Read our 2020 Budget Guide to understand how the state budget affects your life. Many of the services you need and depend on are funded by the state. If you have concerns, you can follow the money and figure out a solution.
- Make your voice count. Your legislators work for you. Let them know your concerns and ideas for solutions. Write letters, make calls, ask for visits, talk to their staffers (who do a lot of the work).
- Always vote. Vote for legislators who represent your interests. Vote for people who will respect you and listen to you.
- Seek moral solutions to civic problems. Consider whether a policy helps your neighbors, your city – whether it addresses the greater good.
- Talk to others about your concerns and findings. Solutions are found through conversation and discussion. The internet is a good source, but it’s a lonely source. Talk to your friends, families, co-workers and others.
- The civic conversation is not reserved for certain people. Everyone can learn and talk. Learn, talk, act.
- Read social media skeptically, based on your knowledge of the state budget and how it affects you, your family, your neighbors and your community. Everyone relies on social media, but there’s a lot of bad information out there. Read widely, form your own opinions. Get educated.
- Take action. In addition to talking with people, write letters to the editor. Write letters or send e-mails to your legislators. Look for sources of information. Join civic groups and civic discussions. Your voice is valuable. Share it!
- Sign up for "Saturday Stats," Policy Matters Ohio's biweekly newsletter. We are not the only source, but we are a great source of information. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, read our reports, blogs, statements and issue briefs, tune in to our Facebook Live events, press conferences and more: We are here for you!