Is the GOP fiscally conservative? We’re about to find out.

As we mentioned before, all signs are that, thanks in part to conservative estimates by the previous administration, Ohio revenues are coming in ahead of forecast—$627 million in additional cash so far in fiscal 2011 with three months to go.

In today’s Columbus Dispatch, and as fiscalyearzero mentioned in his earlier post, top Republicans on the Finance Committee are hinting that they may spend any additional revenue to restore cuts in the Governor’s proposal. But this runs counter to the legislature’s own stated intent of maintaining a Rainy Day Fund equal to 5% of state GRF for unforeseen circumstances. There is also a fund for when the Rainy Day Fund is awash in cash, that returns excess revenue to taxpayers in the form of income tax refunds.

As background, in the prior budget, at the height of the recession, the Rainy Day Fund was drained, leaving a balance of only $.89. If extra funds materialize, certainly the fiscally conservative thing to do would be to replenish the Fund rather than find a way to spend every penny of revenue that comes in the door. Especially if the GOP truly share the Kasich view that local governments need to find efficiencies, merge or do more with less. The politically crass thing to do would be for the state to return it to taxpayers in the form of refunds – likely pennies per taxpayer – all while not restoring local cuts that will lead to tax increases on those same taxpayers.

And speaking of the Rainy Day Fund, super budget nerd (and we mean that in a good way) Brian Perera, the Senate’s top staffer on budget issues, has magnanimously doubled the size of the Fund with a personal contribution of $.89, bringing the balance to $1.78. Our compliments! Ohio Budget Watch will follow Brian’s lead, and mail our check for $1.78 tomorrow, doubling the fund again. We suggest our readers do the same. State Government needs your help – Bob Evans isn’t going to relocate itself!

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