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State Rep. rivals argue over former state deficit

October 6, 2012
Morning Journal News

LISBON - A statement made by County Treasurer Nick Barborak during a recent candidates night event in the county is false, according to his opponent, Craig Newbold.

In a press conference Friday afternoon, Newbold said that Barborak should retract his statement that the state was not facing an $8 million deficit at the close of Gov. Ted Strickland's term.

"Either Mr. Barborak is naively misinformed or he is purposefully attempting to mislead the public ... When I took office in 2011 the deficit was at $8 billion, 18 percent of the state's $53 billion two-year budget. This is fact, Mr. Barborak," Newbold said.

Newbold is a Republican running for a second term as state representative in the first district. Barborak, a Democrat, is also running for the seat.

He said Barborak should "come clean" with the citizens of the county and publicly retract the statement or face charges with the Ohio Elections Commission.

During the conference, he alluded to news articles dating back two years prior to the budget crisis that showed the state was anticipating a budget shortfall that would exceed $7 billion.

In December of 2008, the Columbus Dispatch reported Gov. Strickland announced the state was facing a $7.3 billion shortfall for the next two-year budget.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in September of 2010 that Strickland and then candidate-for-governor Republican John Kasich engaged in a debate that included how they would address the $8 billion budget hole.

Newbold said the federal stimulus funding awarded during Strickland's term to address the projected shortfall was mostly spent on programs and used up within a short matter of time.

"When the Democrats controlled the Ohio House of Representatives they used billions of dollars of 'one time money' to pay for years of ongoing, recurring expenses. They cut state spending for schools, funding for Ohio's public libraries, and took 'one time' stimulus funding as if this would be a long term fix on what was clearly a huge, looming structural deficit," he said.

A financial report prepared by the state office of budget and management and provided by Newbold during the conference showed the state received a total of $4.1 billion in federal stimulus and $8.8 billion in one-time money for the two years.

He argued the funding should have been set aside in a separate fund and not used for general budget purposes.

When contacted Friday, Barborak stood by his statement that the shortfall, largely based on projections, was not as big as anticipated and pointed out that spending in the general fund budget has increased "drastically" since Strickland's term ended.

"The final budget under Gov. Strickland was approximately $51.5 billion. The current budget, under this current legislation is $56.5 billion ... Historically, that amounts to the second largest year to year spending in the state of Ohio," he said.

"If he was so interested in making cuts, explain why he increased spending by $5 billion," he said of Newbold.

He also said the cuts that were enacted by the state legislature "targeted" communities and schools and in effect "strangled off the ability" of those communities to attract new jobs.

During the conference Newbold also targeted an instance in which Barborak, the current county treasurer, was cited in a state audit conducted in 2008.

"Maybe if Mr. Barborak had been following state law, he would have known early on that the county was facing a $1.2 million investment shortfall for that year?" he said.

The citation was that Barborak did not conduct the required meetings of the Investment Advisory Committee which, according to state law, he must chair.

According to the audit, the committee met only once in 2008, despite the state law requiring meetings every quarter.

Barborak said the matter has already been "hashed out" in the paper, and that he had previously admitted it was an "oversight."

"I explained at the time that it was an oversight. I took responsibility for it. We have been audited every year since then with no problems," he said.

Newbold said Barborak put the county in an "awkward position" by not meeting as required and therefore not knowing sooner the county was facing the million-dollar shortfall.

He said he didn't appreciate the treasurer "accusing" him of being "fiscally irresponsible."



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