Citizens, State Legislators Voice Budget Concerns In Town Hall

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Elected officials and school leaders met with Athens citizens Monday in a town hall discussion on potential reforms in Governor John Kasich’s new budget proposal.

The program was organized by One Ohio Now, a non-partisan non-profit organization focused on tax reform.

The group, which included Senator Lou Gentile, Representative Debbie Phillips, and Federal Hocking School District Superintendent George Wood met at the Athens Community Center.

A wide variety of topics were discussed, such as public school funding reform, potential cuts to state income and sales tax, and the recent move to relocate Athens County Jobs and Family Services employees to Columbus.

“There are a lot of empty promises in this budget,” said Phillips in reference to assurances the Kasich administration has made on the budget.

Other members of the panel were Dean Renée Middleton of Ohio University’s Patton College of Education and former school administrator Bill Phillis, the founder of Ohio’s Equity and Adequacy Coalition that began a campaign for a change in school funding models in the 90s. 

The panel, including One Ohio Now’s state director Gavin DeVore Leonard, did express support of the budget’s Medicaid expansion and in opposition to income tax cuts they argue would unfairly benefit the wealthiest of Ohioans.

Citizens, many of which were retired or current public employees, also added their voices.

“Amesville knows frugal like nobody else,” said Amesville Mayor Gary Goosman. "There aren't any wealthy individuals in Amesville."

"Where is the outrage?" asked Ron Luce of Athens. "I want an America that cares about people."

One Ohio Now plans many similar across the state, with the group traveling to Columbus on Wednesday to hold a conversation at the First Congregation Church.