The State budget, legislation that dedicates revenue to a variety of state and local purposes, is the most important aspect of public policymaking that occurs in the State. All state-run and many local programs are either supported or neglected as a result of funding they receive, and language inserted into budget documents grants new powers or restrictions to state and local government that can impact Ohioans in dramatic ways.

As a result of the 2010 elections, Republicans will control every aspect of budget-making: from the Governor’s administration that drafts the budget, GOP majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly who hold hearings, make amendments and ultimately send a final budget bill back to the Governor, and even the lobbyists who influence the legislative and executive branches. It is very likely that Democrats will be at the table when key decisions are made.

With a looming deficit of up to $8 billion, budget deliberations decide winners and losers – whose programs are funded, what services are continued or eliminated, and who benefits from any new programs or investments. As the budget moves through the legislative process, special interests will have access to legislators, and will work tirelessly to get amendments to the bill to benefit their interest, often at the expense of other important programs and services.

This whole process takes place largely behind closed doors with little press coverage. Very expensive and not widely read specialty publications report on daily activities on capital square, which can include hearings by multiple committees simultaneously, but the average Ohioan will never have access to this reporting. Committee hearings are not transcribed or televised. Local newspapers focus only occasionally when key votes occur. Advocacy groups inform their members about the handful of issues they are watching for in the budget.

In order to have a voice, ordinary Ohioans need information about what proposals are being debated before it is too late.

Ohio Budget Watch aims to be this resource. Through a network of contributors and tipsters, the site will provide information about the budget process as it moves forward. The website will be updated frequently, with links to news coverage, reports from Capitol Square, information on advocacy efforts of a variety of groups around Ohio, and ultimately, with opportunities to engage decision-makers through letter-writing, petitions and direct action. Stay in touch by subscribing to our RSS feed, or following us on Twitter.

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