Senate passes state budget, returning money to Ohio taxpayers, investing in education

R-H Staff

COLUMBUS – Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R–Celina) on Thursday announced the passage of Am. Sub. House Bill 64, the state’s two-year operating budget. The Senate voted 23-9 in favor of the conference report approved earlier in the day. The bill gives nearly $2 billion in tax cuts to Ohioans and makes significant investments in both K-12 and higher education.

“This is a balanced budget that supports our vision for making Ohio the best state to live, work and raise your family,” Faber said. “It allows us to create an environment where our economy can grow, where our children have access to affordable and quality education and where we can put money back in the pockets of hard-working Ohioans.”

The bill provides significant tax relief and support to Ohioans and small businesses with the purpose of keeping the state’s economy healthy and growing. The $1.8 billion net tax cut includes an across the board 6.3 percent income tax cut for all Ohioans. The bill also makes permanent the 75 percent tax cut on small businesses’ first $250,000 of net income and increases it to 100 percent in FY17 and establishes a three percent flat tax on income above that.

The proposal, which will become law with the Governor’s signature, also provides much needed sustainability and solvency to the state’s K-12 school funding formula, investing over $930 million dollars over the next two years. Based largely on the current formula, this budget ensures that no school district loses funding and drives additional dollars to low-wealth, low-capacity districts while ensuring more districts are on the funding formula.

A hallmark of the bill is the Senate’s focus on making college affordable and accessible. A two-year tuition freeze will go into effect, and universities and colleges are required to reduce student costs by five percent. This budget also makes the largest state investment in SSI (state share of instruction) in higher education in eight years and creates and funds the Higher Education Innovation Fund to assist institutions with their cost reduction efforts.

Additional highlights include:

• Women’s Health Funding and Coverage: Restores funding for Medicaid coverage of pregnant women up to 200% of the poverty level and restores coverage for breast and cervical cancer screenings for women on Medicaid

• Reducing Infant Mortality: Infuses funding and outcome-driven programs to areas with prevalent infant mortality problems

• Support for Developmental Disability: Fully funds DD initiatives outlined in the Governor’s plan and provides funding for ABLE savings accounts for the developmentally disabled

• Improved Mental Health Care: Provisions included to integrate behavioral health care services into a managed care model

• Increased Police Training: Includes additional GRF funding for a total of nearly $20M for police training and community police relations initiatives

• Local Township Support: Adds $20M in a local government support fund specifically targeted to township needs

• Modernizing Ohio’s Elections: Includes $12.8M for a state-local partnership to provide county board of elections with new, digital electronic pollbook technology, making it even easier to vote in Ohio

• Relief for Ohio’s Waterways: Provides additional loan and tourism funding for Ohio’s distressed lakes

• Additional Student Aid: Includes $100M for need-based student aid through the Ohio College Opportunity Grant

• Building Our Savings: Increases the maximum allowable rainy-day fund from 5 percent of general revenue funds (GRF) to 8.5 percent.

The conference committee report now awaits a vote in the House before moving to the Governor for his signature. The bill must be signed into law before July 1.

R-H Staff