COLUMBUS, Ohio — Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
The (Toledo) Blade, June 3
The version of the next state budget just introduced by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate ignores GOP Gov. John Kasich's sensible proposal to expand the Medicaid program of health insurance for working-poor and disabled Ohioans. Worse, Senate Republicans are looking for ways to restrict, rather than broaden, Medicaid eligibility.
That's bad public policy. And even within the cramped ideology of GOP state lawmakers, such narrow-mindedness could prove bad politics as well.
The case for expanding Ohio's cost-effective, innovative Medicaid program is compelling to just about everyone, except Republican legislators and the anti-Obamacare zealots they fear might challenge their re-election bids next year.
Expansion would insure hundreds of thousands of low-income Ohioans for primary and preventive care. That would reduce the costs they otherwise would incur for emergency health care they couldn't pay for — costs that are now borne by employers, taxpayers, and people with private coverage.
Expansion would create jobs, increase tax revenue, save the state money on such things as treatment of mental illness and drug addiction, and generate economic development. And the federal government would pay for nearly all of Ohio's expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
The (Canton) Repository, June 1
In 1992, Ohio State University President Gordon Gee called the governor at the time "a damn dummy." But Gov. George Voinovich was no dummy. He knew that the smart thing to do was to laugh off Gee's passionate response to a difficult situation involving university funding.
In most instances in which Gee's remarks have been criticized, though, the critics are right, and their concerns should be taken seriously. Gee's wisecracks often are in poor taste, downright offensive and well beneath the standards of behavior that someone in his position should hold himself to.
Even the normally lenient OSU trustees had harsh words for Gee this week after his latest scrape. A recording surfaced in which he said last December about officials of the University of Notre Dame: "The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week. You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that."
Gee has apologized, saying it was "a poor attempt at humor." Indeed.
Trustees are concerned enough about the pattern to insist that Gee undergo "remediation." That's a highfalutin way of saying that he will finally be made to understand that his "humor" is often cutting and offensive and can make his audience uncomfortable — and that he has to knock it off. Why he hasn't figured that out for himself by now is anyone's guess.
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, June 1
The Ohio Senate's Republican majority has demonstrated once again its distaste for full, open debate of questionable measures.
Its rewrite of Ohio's pending state budget bill folded into the budget an altogether separate bill (Senate Bill 52) to forbid school districts and local governments initiating appeals of property tax valuations.
Under current law, school districts and local governments can initiate appeals to Boards of Revision disputing tax values assigned to a parcel of real estate or a parcel's classification as residential/agricultural vs. commercial/industrial.
Assessing a parcel below the value that the facts require deprives schools and local governments of tax revenues to which they're entitled. Those losses must be answered, either by reducing services or by asking voters to increase taxes on all properties.
The bill does maintain the right of an owner of a property, or his or her spouse, to appeal property tax valuations. Obviously, though, owners will ask for reductions, not increases. In contrast, school districts and local governments, as stewards of the responsibilities state law imposes on them, seek upward valuations.
And according to an analysis by Ohio's nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission, the bill "might result in lower property tax valuations to school districts and other units of local governments."
The (Youngstown) Vindicator
Imagine the isolation and inconvenience of America without its 597,961 bridges. Our intricate network of covered, structural and suspension bridges over waterways, highways and railroads provides critical passageways for millions of us to work, schools, health care and recreation daily.
They also act as economic engines, powering about $300 billion annually into the nation's annual Gross Domestic Product and as priceless contributors to our national security. As such, their structural integrity merits our collective and ongoing attention.
Unfortunately, that integrity continues to crack at the seams.
The dangers of structurally deficient bridges were reinforced last month when a bridge over the Skagit River in Washington state collapsed after a truck bumped against its steel framework. Debbie Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, last week called the collapse a wake-up call for America on bridge safety.
The last time America truly woke up to the dangers of unsafe bridges came six years ago, when a bridge collapse in Minneapolis caused 100 cars to drop into the Mississippi River, killing 13 and injuring 145 people.
Since that disaster, progress has been made. More infrastructure investment in Ohio and the nation has lessened the number of dangerous bridges. The vast majority of our bridges present no cause for alarm. For example, one of the most heavily traveled bridges in the Valley, the Market Street Bridge into downtown Youngstown that carries an average of 49,000 vehicles daily, received a "very good" rating in deck, superstructure and substructure last year from the Federal Highway Administration last year.
But other data indicate we have a long way to go toward comprehensive bridge security. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 26 percent of the nation's bridges rank as structurally deficient. Closer to home, Ohio fares better. The Buckeye State scored a B- on its 2013 report card on bridge safety from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Only 9 percent of its 44,000 bridges rated structurally deficient.