Canton Repository

February 6, 2007

Budget’s influence on Stark

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON The federal government would provide more funds for schools with large numbers of poor students in Ohio while reducing the amount of money for community development block grants under President Bush’s 2008 budget proposal.

Under the $2.9 trillion plan unveiled Monday, federal funding for a program that helps states provide health insurance to children would be about the same as this year. Temporary assistance for needy families, the program that replaced welfare, also would get level funding.

The Bush proposal would increase funds for highways in Ohio. But it would cut money for homeland security and airports such as the Akron-Canton Airport.

OHIO LAWMAKERS REACT

The plan drew varying reactions from federal and state officials, as well as those in Stark and Tuscarawas counties.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, slammed it for offering the “same failed policies” as in the past. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland, praised it, saying it put the government on track to eliminate the federal budget deficit by 2012.

Rep. Zack Space, D-Dover, dismissed the plan as a “recommendation.” He said he would work with other lawmakers to “make sure we put together a budget that is fiscally responsible and meets the needs of the people of the 18th District.”

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, did not offer any comment on the plan. In the past, he has noted the budget always undergoes substantial change.

The plan is certain to undergo a transformation before it becomes final, especially as Democrats control both the House and Senate for the first time in Bush’s presidency.

CONCERN FOR CANTON

Canton Mayor Janet Creighton said she was concerned about the proposed cut in community development block grants, which are used by local governments to support housing, infrastructure projects and economic development benefiting low- and middle-income residents.

“That is extremely important to the city of Canton,” she said. “If it’s decreased, it does have a direct impact.”

Ohio’s estimated block grant funds would drop to $122.24 million next year from $178.32 million this year under the proposal, according to administration documents.

Bush unsuccessfully sought to cut block grant funding last year, but Congress increased it instead.

Canton received $2.9 million in block grant funds last year. The city expects a 16 percent cut in 2007 funding.

In addition to reducing block grant funding by about 40 percent nationwide, the administration has proposed changing the distribution formula to target the funding to areas of greatest need, officials said.

The Bush plan would increase funds for Section 8 vouchers, which help low-income families pay for affordable housing.

Claudia Duerr, executive director of the Tuscarawas Metropolitan Housing Authority, welcomed the proposed increase. But she noted it does not guarantee Tuscarawas County will receive additional funding.

“It’s wonderful to see that there’s more money being put into the original pot,” she said.

She said even if Ohio ends up getting more money, the county might not because of the distribution formulas that are used.

The county received $1.79 million for the program in 2006 and expects to get about $1.73 million for 2007.

Under the Bush proposal, Section 8 funds to Ohio would increase to $524 million from $510 million in 2007.

more points in Bush budget plan:

— Title 1 grants to Ohio, which help schools with high populations of poor students, would rise to $484.90 million in 2008 from $445.97 million in 2007.

— Special education grants to Ohio would remain level at $399.91 million.

— Funds supporting the State Children’s Health Insurance Program would remain level at $157.99 million.

— Ohio would get $727.96 million for temporary assistance for needy families, the same as last year.

— Highway planning and construction funds in Ohio would rise to $1.21 billion in 2008 from just more than $1 billion in 2007.

— Ohio’s share of airport improvement funds would drop to $63.56 million in 2008 from $82.43 million in 2007.

— State grants for homeland security would drop to $7.33 million in 2008 from $16.83 million in 2007.