Shared sacrifice was the name of the game two years ago, as Ohio Gov. John Kasich and legislators struggled to balance the state budget. State programs were cut and aid to local governments, including schools, was reduced to cope with a budget gap of nearly $8 billion.
But the outlook now is brighter, as Kasich reported this week. The state may end the current two-year budget cycle with a surplus of as much as $1.9 billion. Quite rightly, the governor wants to focus on tax relief for Buckeye State residents and small businesses. He also plans to avoid more education spending cuts.
What about struggling local governments, however? Is there any money in the budget to reverse reductions in state aid to them?
During a meeting with Jefferson County local government officials this week, state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, suggested some of the state aid cuts to them should be reversed.
That went over well with the local government officials. As Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci noted, some communities have had to reduce "basic services for citizens."
And some area villages and cities continue to struggle, despite cutbacks that in some cases have involved municipal workers agreeing to reductions in pay and/or benefits.
Even with less state aid, most municipalities and counties are able to make ends meet. But some, including several in East Ohio, have been hit by double trouble.
Mingo Junction is an excellent example. There, closure of an RG Steel mill has slashed village revenue and put many local residents out of work. The village's "back is against the wall," Mayor Ron DiCarlo told Cera.
Indeed it is.
It may be that Kasich and legislators cannot see their way clear to restore state aid cuts to all local governments. But in situations such as that faced by Mingo Junction, consideration should be given to additional state aid meant to help communities get through especially tough times.
What happened in communities such as Mingo Junction is not the fault of residents or their elected officials. Surely the governor and lawmakers can find a few dollars to help them negotiate the troubled fiscal waters that threaten to drown some communities.