Ted Strickland's State Of The State, Today At Noon

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Improving early education, finding health
insurance for more children in low-income families and making
college tuition more affordable were staples of Gov. Ted
Strickland's campaign.

Now, Strickland has the chance to outline his specific proposals
in those and other areas in his maiden State of the State speech
Wednesday before the Legislature, the Ohio Supreme Court, members
of his Cabinet and other dignitaries. Funding for his ideas will be
revealed Thursday in his first budget, for the two years beginning
July 1.

Strickland has been tight-lipped about what's in his speech but
has told fellow Democrats that they would like what they will hear.
Majority Republicans in the Legislature say they didn't know what
to expect.

In January, Strickland said revenues for the budget were
expected to be $1 billion to $1.5 billion below what outgoing
Republican Gov. Bob Taft's office had projected. The price tag for
the two-year budget is expected to be more than $50 billion.

Democrats in the Legislature want more spending on preschool
education and all-day kindergarten, which Republicans deemed too
expensive in the current budget. They also want to expand a health
care program for children in low-income families by raising the
income ceiling for eligibility.

Strickland also has said he wants to make college more
affordable while increasing graduation rates. He calls those his
keys to turning around Ohio's economy.

Republicans have reserved the first bills in the House and
Senate for Strickland's plan to bring more equity among Ohio's 612
school districts. While Strickland says it's a priority, he has
said it likely won't be included in his version of the budget.

Rep. Michael Skindell of Lakewood, the ranking Democrat on the
budget-writing House Finance and Appropriations Committee, said
Strickland and Republicans are reaching for similar goals.

"The way we're approaching this is to make sure we get our
priorities straight," Skindell said.