House Provides Aid to Appalachia in Budget Amendments


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One little-told story in the Kasich budget is the hit that Appalachian Ohio takes.

In the Governor’s budget proposal, the Office of Appalachia saw its funding cut by 18 percent in FY2012, and completely zeroed out in FY2013. The second year is complicated. It’s not that Kasich necessarily intended to eliminate the office, but a number of programs at the Department of Development — the funding for which totaled $48 million in FY 2102 — have no money allocated in FY 2013. Instead, a single line item of $33 million is assigned to cover any or all of those programs that the Department intends to continue after it establishes the private JobsOhio corproration.

This means the Department will decide in 2013 how to use $33 million for $48 million worth of programs ranging from Travel and Tourism, Minority Business and the Office of Appalachia. In other words, the future of the office that provides funding for economic development and infrastructure projects in the economically-depressed Appalachian Ohio is in the hands of the unelected Director of Development, and not the legislature. The Department could eliminate the Office entirely or cut its funding significantly.

Advocates for the region, seemingly hoping to stay out from under the bus, have refrained from saying the sky is falling, opting to  — publicly, at least — express some confidence and subdued skepticism that the administration and legislature will do the right thing.

But in the House, a number of amendments were added to the budget bill that provide a bit more certainty to the Appalachian region. After dramatic testimony from Vinton County Auditor Cindy Owings that local government fund cuts would force the firing of EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYEE in the county, the House added an amendment to limit the impact of cuts on Vinton and other rural Southeastern counties. The House version would continue current funding levels, or $500,000 per year, whichever is less, and essentially benefits Vinton, Monroe, Morgan and Noble Counties.

Other changes to the budget made in the House aimed at rural Ohio include the restoration of funding for soil and water districts, for the OSU Agricultural Extension program, and requiring the Governor to sell or lease a youth detention center in Scioto County, rather than closing the Portsmouth facility and eliminating 333 much-needed Scioto County jobs.

 

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