April 13, 2024

Chairman Smith, Speaker Rosenberger, Speaker Pro Tem Schuring speaking at a press conference. Submitted photo.

Proposal claims to prioritizes opioid epidemic, school funding

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Speaker of the Ohio House Clifford A. Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) and Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) discussed details of House Bill 49, the state operating budget.

According to a joint statement released from the Ohio House, the proposed bill will be restrained due to lower than expected revenue estimates. The bill purportedly “promotes a fiscally sound plan by staying under the rate of inflation over the biennium and responsibly allocating funds towards areas that are most in need, such as battling the drug epidemic and funding schools.”

House Bill 49 is said to ensure that “work accomplished in recent years to improve Ohio’s economy and cultivate job growth continues into the future through smart fiscal management and a balanced budget.”

In regards to tax policy, the bill purportedly removes proposed changes to the income, sales, severance, commercial activity, tobacco and vapor, and alcohol tax, while also reducing the number of income tax brackets from nine to seven.

“Passing a balanced budget has always been our main priority and the budget plan discussed today puts our state, including businesses, in a better position for the future, even in the face of some of the challenges we are dealing with,” Speaker Rosenberger said. “We have to make the tough decisions necessary to invest in the priorities that matter most to Ohio citizens. I want to commend Chairman Smith, Vice Chair Scott Ryan, and all of the Finance Subcommittee chairs and members for their work on this bill and for putting Ohioans first when it comes to funding in our state.”

Through funds totaling more than $170 million in new money, the bill invests in combating the drug epidemic through various efforts aimed at prevention, treatment, mental health care, and workforce initiatives by way of the HOPES (Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education and Safety) Agenda. Resources will be directed as follows:

$130 million toward treatment (child protective services, transitional housing, nursing beds pilot program, ADAMHS boards, support for kinship caregivers and expanding treatment/detox)
$19.4 million toward mental health (BCI processing lab reports, stabilization centers, residential state supplement, drug court pilot program and telemedicine coverage)
$12.2 million toward prevention (community coalition funding, investing in innovation & technology, accessible educational resources and Start Talking!)
$9 million toward workforce (Short-term certificates and SNAP workforce & training funding)

“The House focused its scarce resources in this package to fight the drug epidemic. Our plan makes critical investments to empower communities and strengthen services. Appropriations and policy changes in this plan span the continuum of care to ensure there are no gaps for individuals seeking services,” said Rep. Smith. “Another area of focus was education where an investment of $90 million was made into K-12 schools.”

Enhancing opportunities for all Ohioans is a central component of the state operating budget through school funding, ensuring that students have the ability to learn and grow. House Bill 49 increases funding per pupil compared to the executive budget proposal by more than $90 million over the biennium. For higher education, the bill promotes tuition guarantee programs in order to provide more cost consistency to students and requires colleges to study textbook costs in order to ultimately reduce the financial burden on Ohio students.

Other major provisions of the substitute bill include:

Helping local governments: Provides $15 million in funding towards indigent defense in various counties across the state
Assisting children with special health needs: Funds the Bureau of Children with Medical Handicaps (BCMH) at $3 million and removes recommended changes to the program included in the executive budget proposal
Addressing teacher concerns: Removes teacher externship language

Not mentioned in the statement is a way to ease the burden many counties, including Meigs County, are facing with the loss of revenue from the Medicaid sales tax. The Meigs County Commissioners have been very vocal about the impact the loss of revenue will have, particularly on Meigs. For more information on just how much Meigs County and local governments will be effected by the loss of revenue click on the link below.

Taking a stand for Southeastern Ohio with #localgovernmentsunite