by Marc Kovac, Capital Bureau Chief;
Lawmakers and Gov. Ted Strickland are putting the final touches on the state's biennial operating budget, outlining their plans for spending more than $52 billion.
The 2008-09 deliberations will go down as some of the most civil in the state's history -- will we ever see a unanimous vote from both chambers on legislation this pivotal?
But don't expect that feel-good climate to continue as we approach a hotly contested presidential election year.
And things could start getting testy this week, as the Legislature identifies $167 million in cuts during Republican-led conference discussions. That's before our Democratic governor wields his line-item veto, which could mean further cuts before the numbers are set in stone.
The funds will cover everything from public safety to public health. There'll be money for roads, child welfare and education.
It's a lot of money -- think about all of the stuff you could buy with $52 billion.
You could spend $2 million a day for your entire life (that's if you make it to 70) and still have cash left over for a fancy funeral.
From a practical standpoint, that's enough money to put groceries on the table (either at home or purchased in restaurants) in every Ohio household for the next two years, based on average annual consumer food spending compiled by U.S. Census statisticians. Less practically, it would buy every Ohioan a large cup of coffee -- the kind purchased at those trendy, downtown shops -- every day for the next seven years.
Total state spending over the next two years would pay for kickin' video game systems and big, flat-screen televisions for every Ohio youth, aged 17 and younger.
You could buy 1.5 million muscle cars, or 12 billion long-stemmed roses (purchased in dozens and delivered by professional florists), or a half a million houses (of median value in Ohio), or about 9 billion gallons of gasoline (if prices really get up toward $6, as some fatalists are predicting).
Or 3.5 billion "data storage devices," at the $15 value claimed in a certain Columbus-area police report -- on which to keep the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers, next of kin, safe combinations and blood types of the state's 11 million residents.
Or 475 years worth of identity theft protection for all those affected when those "data storage devices" are stolen from interns' cars.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Newspapers Capital Bureau chief. E-mail him at email@example.com. His Capital Blog can be found online at blogs.recordpub.com/