Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
The (Youngstown) Vindicator, Dec. 16
Fewer than half of the 430,000-plus students who enter Ohio's public colleges and universities graduate, and of those who do earn a degree, it generally takes six years instead of four.
Against that backdrop, a special gubernatorial commission has developed a new funding plan for higher education that emphasizes graduation rates, rather than enrollment. The plan would also reward those institutions that enable their students to earn their degrees in four years, instead of the normal six.
"I have long been opposed to being evaluated on the number students coming in the door," said Youngstown State University President Cynthia Anderson, who has embraced the commission's funding recommendations. "I think universities should be evaluated on what they're doing with the students who choose to come through their doors ..."
Anderson's predecessors emphasized enrollment because the state funding formula has been based, in large part, on the full-time equivalent number of students....
But while YSU's president, like her colleagues around the state, is enthusiastic about the new state funding plan developed by the governor's commission — it was led by Ohio State University President Gordon Gee — the goal of four-year graduation won't be easy to attain....
A key recommendation has to do with the way the $1.75 billion in state funding for four-year institutions will be divided. Fifty percent of funding in the first year of the biennium will be based on degree completion....
Change is coming to Ohio's universities and colleges, including two-year institutions.
The Marietta Times, Dec. 14
Ohio is one of 11 states that made the Forbes list of danger spots for investors. The financial magazine predicted rising taxes, declining state revenue, an employer "exodus," and a rotten housing market in Ohio, which Forbes termed a "sick" state and a fiscal "hellhole."
Forbes said one reason Ohio makes the list is that it has as many people receiving their incomes from the government as it does from the private sector. This includes government employees, government retirees and people in the private sector who are on government support.
Another reason Forbes includes Ohio in its list of states in a "death spiral" is credit-worthiness. The Buckeye State's unhealthy public pensions damages its credit-worthiness.
We don't completely agree with Forbes' doom-and-gloom prediction. There have been many promising developments such as the shale play for oil and natural gas in eastern Ohio and state budget reforms that have actually resulted in a rainy day fund.
But the dismal condition of Ohio's public pension system is not debatable, nor is the need for ongoing reform. If for no other reason, Ohio should continue tweaking its unsustainable pension system to avoid the horrible publicity that arises from lists like Forbes' "death spiral" states.
The Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 16
The plan Gov. John Kasich released about how to make the Ohio Turnpike's revenues work for Ohio demonstrates his business acumen.
After a consultant's study showed that leasing the 241-mile turnpike to a private company likely wouldn't pay enough upfront to make it worthwhile to hand over a state asset, Kasich took a pass.
Instead, the administration has struck an inventive compromise....
The turnpike will not be leased. It remains in the state's hands. Employees won't be laid off. Instead, the state will sell bonds against future turnpike revenues and use those dollars — $1.5 billion from bonds plus $1.5 billion in matching local and federal funds — to speed rebuilding of the turnpike and other roads across Ohio. This $3 billion offsets a $1.6 billion highway-budget deficit, meaning roadwork postponed by the Ohio Department of Transportation for 20 years now gets done in six. And gas-tax hikes, which kill jobs and strain family budgets, don't happen....
The Ohio Turnpike Commission remains an independent, public governing body and gains a stronger role, overseeing where bond money is spent and working with ODOT....
Good solutions are often simple, but not always obvious. The governor's plan still will require legislative changes, to allow spending turnpike revenue more than one mile from the toll road. But Kasich's home-equity line for the Ohio turnpike is politically and practically elegant. It calms angst up north, plugs another deficit without raising taxes and is backed by the Turnpike Commission.
The (Tiffin) Advertiser-Tribune
The nation may continue its ongoing plunge over a fiscal cliff even if President Barack Obama and conservatives in Congress agree on a budget deal this month. That is because the White House's bottom line in negotiations is far removed from the reality of the dilemma into which we Americans have spent ourselves.
Most news stories, commentators and politicians define the "fiscal cliff" as what will happen if Obama and lawmakers do not reach some agreement on the budget by Dec. 31. If a deal is not arranged, tax relief dating back to former President George W. Bush's term will expire. And, automatic federal spending cuts termed "the sequester" will kick in.
Indeed, failure to renew the tax breaks would wreck the economy. Virtually every American who pays income taxes would be hit by a stiff increase.
But if there is such a thing as a "fiscal cliff," the nation started over it years ago, when runaway federal spending began ballooning the national debt. It now stands at more than $16 trillion.
Obama's offer on a budget plan includes $1.6 trillion in tax increases during the next decade. But during that period, he is proposing only about $450 billion in spending cuts — slightly more than one-fourth the amount of tax increases.
We have already plunged over the "cliff." If adopted, Obama's plan would merely accelerate our fall. Lawmakers should reject it.