Ohio state government is in the midst of a two-year budget that, as a result of a great deal of creativity and sacrifice, is balanced. Keeping it that way will require constant attention and, perhaps, adjustments along the way.
Tax revenue thus far during the budget year is about $77 million higher than had been predicted. That sounds like a lot but, in the context of a $50 billion-plus, two-year budget, it is not much of a cushion.
There are reasons for concern, too. Among them is what state Budget Director Tim Keen has called "very sluggish" improvement in income tax collections. Last month, income tax revenue was $22 million below predictions used to craft the budget.
As if Ohioans didn't have enough to worry about, costs are expected to rise, sometimes steeply, for some government functions. For example, a dramatic increase in spending for the joint state-federal Medicaid program, providing assistance for about 2.1 million Ohioans, has been forecast.
Last year, Medicaid cost the state $14 billion. Even a 5 percent jump in costs would amount to $700 million, possibly sending the budget back into the red.
Ohio's economy is rebounding from the recession. During November, the last month for which statistics are available, the state's unemployment rate was 8.5 percent. That was down 1.1 percent from the same month in 2010. More Buckeye State residents collecting paychecks means both more revenue for the state and less spending for temporary relief programs.
Still, as the income tax numbers show, the state isn't out of the woods yet. Gov. John Kasich and legislators should keep their eyes on the numbers - and not through the rose-colored glasses the previous administration seemed to be using. At the first sign of trouble, adjustments should be made in the budget to ensure it stays balanced.