The Burden of a Budget Deficit: The Voinovich Administration and the 1991 Budget Crisis

When Senator George Voinovich took the office as the 65th Governor of Ohio in 1991, the state was facing a biennial budget deficit of about $1.5 billion. While the previous years’ Governor and General Assembly had cut spending and increased revenue to address $270 million of the budget deficit, this problem was not going to be simple to solve. In his Inaugural Address, Senator Voinovich expressed, “It is safe to say that we have never before found ourselves in the midst of a financial crisis of the magnitude we face today” (Inaugural Address, 1991). While the task was daunting, Senator Voinovich and his administration worked across party lines to make hard decisions, including limiting the funding of certain programs and increasing state revenue to address this large deficit.

Since the budget impacts every state agency, local government and individual citizens, many voices would have to be heard in the process and the decisions would be highly contested. One of the primary methods used to edit the budget was utilizing direct contact with public administrators across the administration to request their suggestions and input. The Office of Budget Management provided recommendations to all state departments, agencies, boards and commissions but wanted their input to finalize any decisions made (Memo from Greg Browning to all state organizations – February 5, 1991).

Furthermore, cross-party negotiations and compromises had to be made to address the budget crisis. Following the 1991 election, the Ohio Senate had a Republican Majority while the House of Representatives had a Democratic Majority, which made negotiations more complex as the values of the parties came into conflict. For example, when the budget process began, the Democratic Caucus sent out correspondence to their Senators, describing the issues they had with the budget, which primarily focused on the cutting of budgets for different programs (Correspondence from the Democratic Caucus – March 20, 1991). Additionally, those within the Republican Party sent out alternative recommendations, such as limiting the privatization of the Ohio Turnpike or refinancing the State debt (Correspondence from Senate President Stanley Aronoff to Greg Browning – January 16, 1991). Though this was challenging, former Director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management, Greg Browning, expressed the importance of working together to complete the project in a recent interview, “This meant that negotiation and compromise were the order of the day. Having a history with both houses and those relationships certainly helped me as a representative of the administration. These relationships matter a great deal in the decisions making process.”

Additionally, a short amount of time was available to make the budgetary decisions, and many compromises were made by all parties. For example, from the beginning, Senator Voinovich had planned to limit any cuts made to primary and secondary education as well as programs that supported children, those with disabilities, and the elderly (Agency by Agency Analysis of the House Budget Bill – May 16, 1991). Furthermore, he agreed to use more money from the Rainy Day Fund as state revenue to alleviate some of the cuts to the budget (Letter from Voinovich to Aronoff and Riffe – July 3, 1991).

The budget reallocations that occurred in 1991 would be the first of many as the administration attempted to control the deficit. Browning expressed, “We ended up with four rounds of budget cuts and a tax increase from January to 1991 to December of 1992.” While these were not easy decisions to make, the administration worked to involve as many people in the decision-making process and make compromises with other organizations to ensure a strong commitment to the public. The end result, while difficult, reiterated to many why Governor Voinovich was elected: he focused on doing more with less. “[George Voinovich] was a great believer in the power of people working together effectively,” said Browning, “He was Genuine George. What you see is what you get. He was a great leader. The kind of guy that people were really happy about.”

Appalachian Regional Commission and Senator Voinovich’s Support: Creating Lasting Partnerships

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) was established by Congress in 1965 to address the economic issues of the Appalachian region (ARC History). It was created because one in three Appalachians lived in poverty before the ARC was created and the region lagged behind the national averages in education and healthcare. Congress established a mandate in the Appalachian Regional Development Act to focus resources on closing the socioeconomic divide between the area and the rest of the nation. Throughout its history, the ARC has worked to develop regional planning, research activities and advocacy, and distribute grants for public-private partnerships to obtain their goals. Their accomplishments included cutting the amount of distressed counties from 223 in 1965 to 77 counties in 2006, dropping Appalachia’s infant mortality rate by two-thirds, and increasing the percentage of Appalachian adults with a high school diploma by more than 70 percent (Hearing before the committee on environment and public works, United States Senate, 2006). The ARC covers all 410 Appalachian counties in the United States, and the partnerships it has been able to develop in Ohio, aided by the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, have been incredibly influential (History of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia)

While Senator Voinovich had been born, raised, and elected in Cleveland, Ohio, he obtained his undergraduate degree at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. During his time at Ohio University, he would learn more about the Appalachian region and expressed, “My days at Ohio University and my experiences representing the region’s interests as governor and senator have opened my eyes to the unique challenges and assets in Appalachia. I have made a personal commitment to helping this region develop and prosper” (10.5.2005, Appalachian Regional Commission Annual Meeting). To help obtain his goals of development and growth, Senator Voinovich continually advocated for and built a valuable relationship with the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Senator Voinovich quickly recognized the value of the ARC and continually worked to support the organization: “My 2002 ARC reauthorization legislation provided unprecedented funding for a new telecom initiative to help bridge the digital divide and assist businesses and residents in taking advantage of e-commerce opportunities” (10.5.2005, Appalachian Regional Commission Annual Meeting). Following the passage of this Act, Senator Voinovich continued the work by sponsoring the 2003 report “From Vision to Reality…. An Implementation plan for development of the Appalachian Region of Ohio.” The plan worked directly with what was then the Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University to help encourage entrepreneurship, technological development, and environmental protection.

Following the report, the work of the ARC continued with multiple partnerships with Ohio University and Senator Voinovich. In 2007, ARC and Senator Voinovich hosted the first Energy Summit with multiple Appalachian stakeholders, a summit that continues to take place today (Appalachian Ohio Energy Economic Development Summit, 2007). Furthermore, the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs has continually worked with different Appalachian communities to promote development across the region. In 2016, Ohio University received a $2 million grant from the ARC’s Partnerships for Opportunities and Workforce and Economic Revitalization program to help develop more than 125 new businesses (OU receives $2 million POWER grant, 8.24.16).

While the Appalachian region has struggled economically, Senator Voinovich continually worked to promote partnerships and innovation in the region. Senator Voinovich was also the primary sponsor during two large reauthorizations of ARC by the federal government, occurring in 2002 and 2008 (Senate Bill 1206 and Senate Bill 496). By supporting the ARC, they were able to work in tandem to support economic development and environmental sustainability through a number of different initiatives. Those initiatives continue today to make steps forward in helping the entirety of Appalachia.

Ohio EPA to present on “Ohio Materials Marketplace” on Tuesday, April 18

The Ohio University Voinovich School is pleased to invite you to attend a presentation by the Ohio EPA on Tuesday, April 18 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. in Building 21, Room 105 on The Ridges to learn more about the new “Ohio Materials Marketplace,” which hosts a free online software platform for users to easily list their available by-products and waste materials, as well as post requests for materials they need.

The Marketplace is meant to create economic value for businesses and communities, divert material from Ohio landfills, and make Ohio a leader in the circular economy. More about the Marketplace can be found here: https://ohio.materialsmarketplace.org/. Ohio EPA will be presenting from approx. 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Given the Marketplace’s crossover with the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative generously supported by the Sugar Bush Foundation, as well as numerous other waste-related programs and activity in the Athens-Hocking region, from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m., we invite you to continue the roundtable discussion to discuss ways in which regional businesses and entrepreneurs can capitalize on waste resource streams.

Please RSVP to welche@ohio.edu for planning purposes, and to reserve a parking permit with us for The Ridges.

Injection well research topic of final installment in Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series

Jen Bowman, acting director of environmental programs, and Natalie Kruse, associate professor of environmental studies, will present on the Sugar Bush Foundation funded project titled, “Bringing transparency to environmental issues surrounding Class II injection wells through community engagement in eastern Athens County.” This presentation will be the last installment of the Voinovich School Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series on Friday, April 14 from 12 – 1 p.m. in Bldg. 22, Room 221 at The Ridges.

Athens County received the greatest input of hydraulic fracturing waste in Ohio in 2016. The presentation will discuss the research, characterizing the groundwater quality near injection wells, while building a foundation of knowledge and understanding about science, data, and communication strategies related to injection wells. Additionally, speakers will talk about providing community trainings and roundtable discussions to empower effective community participation with environmental decision makers.

The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series runs each semester. These Friday forums include an informal lunch presentation and Q&A related to environmental topics of interest. The events are open to all Voinovich School students, as well as OHIO faculty, staff and students and the community. Free pizza will be served, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.

Not sure how to get up to The Ridges? Check out the Red Line CATS Shuttle, the Athens Public Transit routes, walk or ride your bike.

Voinovich School Women’s Forum Series features leadership discussion with Jennifer Simon

As part of its ongoing Women’s Forum Series, the Voinovich School will host a session featuring a leadership discussion with Jennifer Simon on Friday, April 7 from 1:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. in The Ridges, Bldg. 21, Room 105.

Simon will speak on the success she has experienced throughout her professional career and how her Ohio University Master of Public Administration degree has helped her achieve her goals. In addition to sharing her experiences, Simon will be sharing her best advice for aspiring leaders.  All students, faculty and staff are invited to attend.

Simon became the Executive Director of Regional Innovation in 2016 after previously serving as the Director of the Ohio University Innovation Center. While working with the Innovation Center, Simon raised more than $4 million in grants expanding services and facility improvements. She has also served as the President of the Athens County Economic Development Council and held positions in the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.

Professional presentation workshop next installment in Voinovich School Women’s Forum series

On Tuesday, April 11 from 2 – 3:30 p.m., the Voinovich School will hold another session in its ongoing Women’s Forum Series in The Ridges, Bldg. 21, Room 105. This workshop, titled “Stay Out of Your Own Way: How gendered stereotypes threaten our success,” will focus on the ways women have traditionally undersold their skills in the workforce.

This event will function as an interactive workshop led by Dr. Geneva Murray, Director of the Women’s Center at Ohio University. Participants will discover how they can improve their professional presentation of self through verbal and nonverbal communication. All students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend the event.

The Women’s Center works to promote awareness, education and advocacy about women, gender and diversity among faculty, staff and students at Ohio University. This workshop counts towards a She Leads OHIO requirement. She Leads OHIO is a program offered by the Women’s Center that works to develop professional leadership skills among participants by focusing on the challenges women face in the workforce.

For more information about the workshop or She Leads OHIO, visit www.ohio.edu/womenscenter.

MSES students present animal-based research during Voinovich School Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series

Two master of science in environmental studies (MSES) candidates will discuss their work researching native species during the next installment of the Voinovich School Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series Friday, March 24 from 12 – 1 p.m. in Bldg. 22, Room 221 at The Ridges.

Eileen Wyza, a second-year MSES student, will present on “Space Use and Activity of Fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox) in Madagascar and Implications for Conservation.” Her work follows the fosa, Madagascar’s largest native carnivore, that faces many threats due to deforestation and population growth. This species is currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with only about 2,000 remaining in highly isolated populations in the wild today.

Despite evidence that fosa are sensitive to deforestation and human presence, little is known about their space use and activity patterns in close proximity to human settlements. By using GPS radio-collars, Wyza monitored the fosa inside Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar. These collars reveal the species’ spatial and activity patterns around many settlements inside and bordering the park.

Second-year MSES candidate, Merri Collins, will discuss her work with the mudpuppy salamander in southeastern Ohio. Her project is entitled “The common mudpuppy salamander: not so common anymore?” The mudpuppy salamander, with a wide-reaching range in the Midwest, has suffered severe population declines due to habitat degradation and human-caused pollution. Little is known about the current population of mudpuppies in southeast Ohio.

To learn more about their presence, Collins used environmental DNA, a new and innovative biological monitoring tool. This method uses only water samples and PCR polymerase chain reactions (PCR) to establish the presence or absence of aquatic organisms in lentic and lotic ecosystems. Coupled with traditional surveys, eDNA monitoring can be a useful tool for conservation of cryptic species like the mudpuppy. This research was aided by Collins’ membership to Kuchta Labs at Ohio University.

The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series runs each semester. These Friday forums include an informal lunch presentation and Q&A related to environmental topics of interest. The events are open to all Voinovich School students, as well as OHIO faculty, staff and students and the community. Free pizza will be served, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.

Not sure how to get up to The Ridges? Check out the Red Line CATS Shuttle, the Athens Public Transit routes, walk or ride your bike.

For additional information, contact Loraine McCosker at mccosker@ohio.edu.

Voinovich School Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series features “Making Bike Commuting Possible for All”

Bikes

Megan Buskirk from the Athens City-County Health Department will discuss safely and comfortably biking to work during the next installment of the Voinovich School Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series Friday, March 17 from 12 – 1 p.m. in Bldg. 22, Room 221 at The Ridges.

Buskirk will teach attendees how to outfit their bike and themselves to safely and securely commute. She will also cover common bicycle commuting myths, and offer solutions to make active commuting possible. The session will touch on community resources and share recent local bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements.
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Buskirk has been a public health educator since 2011. She currently serves as the Environmental Strategies Coordinator for the Communities Preventing Chronic Disease grant at the Athens City-County Health Department. She facilitates the adoption of policy, system and environmental change to create a healthier Athens County. Currently, she is working on strategies to increase connectivity of all modes of transportation including bus, bikes, vehicles and pedestrians through a “Park and Go” system.

The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series runs each semester. These Friday forums include an informal lunch presentation and Q&A related to environmental topics of interest. The events are open to all Voinovich School students, as well as OHIO faculty, staff and students and the community. Free pizza will be served, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.

Not sure how to get up to The Ridges? Check out the Red Line CATS Shuttle, the Athens Public Transit routes, walk or ride your bike.

For additional information, contact Loraine McCosker at mccosker@ohio.edu.

Athens Food Policy Council: A space for grassroots organizing

The Athens Food Policy Council is a voluntary group of small business owners, non-profit staff, Ohio University students and community members. The organization’s mission is to grow healthy, equitable, and sustainable food systems in the Athens region through understanding and policy work around food security, economic development and renewable energy.

The council members are currently working on two initiatives. One is a community needs assessment and the other involves researching a potential sugar tax, which would ideally generate funds to support increasing fresh food in schools or creating access to more water fountains throughout Athens.

Anyone with a passion for sustainable agriculture, renewable energy or local economies is welcome to join the Athens Food Policy Council. The organization has no membership requirements and encourages people of all interests to join. Full council meetings are open to the public.

“Contributing to the Athens food system has been a way for me to combine my love of the Athens community with the work I am doing in the MPA program every day,” Megan Conkle, Voinovich School Master of Public Administration (MPA) candidate, said.

The council is an opportunity to gain experience working in a team-based environment at a grass roots level. It is a chance to network both locally and statewide by connecting with other councils across Ohio. The organization also serves as a community for feedback on new ideas.

For more details, contact gracek@acenetworks.org or visit the Athens Food Policy Council Facebook page or website.

 

Center for Entrepreneurship hosts franchising event

The Center for Entrepreneurship hosts, “Your Future in Franchising,” March 15 from 6 – 8 p.m. in the Baker Center Theater. Points of discussion include franchisees, franchisors, financing and legal concerns. Students, faculty, staff and the rest of the campus community are invited to learn about a market that is growing exponentially.  Leaders from many different types of industries will discuss their perspective on franchises.

The Center for Entrepreneurship is a partnership between the College of Business and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

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