Ohio Budget Cuts Library Support by 5%
The budget submitted by Ohio Gov. Bob Taft February 10 calls for cuts in the state's local government funds, including the Library and Local Government Support Fund. The LLGSF provides nearly all the funding for 78% of the state's 251 public library systems.
The two-year, $51-billion budget--which Taft said was the tightest in 40 years--provides slight increases to schools and expands the school voucher program, but freezes the health-care program for poor children and families, the Associated Press reported February 10.
Lynda Murray, director of government and legal services for the Ohio Library Council, said that the budget freezes the LLGSF for calendar year 2005 at its 2004 level; in January 2006 a 5% cut will take effect, extending through June 30, 2007. "Five percent seems like not a lot," Murray told American Libraries. "The problem is, there has been a continuous erosion of funds since 2001." A drop in revenue from personal income taxes resulted in an 8.5% reduction in the LLGSF in 2002, and libraries received no state funding at all for the month of July 2003, forcing some smaller libraries to close a couple of days a week or on Sundays (AL, Apr. 2003, p. 17).
Ohio library supporters will now turn their efforts to the state legislature. February 10 "is the first day of the budget process, not the last," Murray noted. The House Finance Committee will now take up the measure, and the Senate is expected to follow in May. The state constitution requires that a budget be in place by June 30.
The ongoing budget crisis has sharpened the library community's political skills. "We have a really good grassroots lobbying effort here," said Murray. The Ohio Library Council works closely with other local-government groups and editorial boards, she told AL, adding that the group is "already working with PR people from around the state to help frame our message. …