Crafting the biennial state budget is always a complex, comprehensive process that not only involves hours of discussion between House members, but also requires collaboration with the Ohio Senate, the Governor’s administration, state agencies, and local governments. This year is no different, and with lower than expected revenue estimates, we worked hard to restrain spending and produce a fiscally sound bill that still addresses Ohio’s most pressing needs.
I’m proud to announce that the House has done just that. This week, we passed House Bill 49, the state operating budget, with bipartisan support. Because of careful consideration, we were able to restrain spending by staying under the rate of inflation, spending approximately $2.5 billion less than the Governor’s original proposal. Even through this tight budget cycle, we were still able to prioritize funding and reforms that will set our state up for future stability and success.
In last week’s column, I discussed in detail the $170.6 million in new money that we directed toward our state’s deadly opioid crisis. Because the drug and addiction epidemic is our most urgent concern and has the potential to threaten Ohio’s growth, it was high on our priority list. However, there were a variety of other issues on which to focus. In order to enhance opportunities for all Ohioans, we expanded resources for primary and secondary education by more than $90 million over fiscal years 2018 and 2019, investing in the growth and development of our next generation. Our schools need resources in order to provide the highest quality of education for Ohio’s students.
Our young adults also need access to an affordable college degree, whether the avenue towards that degree is through a traditional four-year university, community college, or career-technical school. We instituted tuition reforms, giving colleges and universities the choice to either freeze tuition rates or provide a tuition guarantee program. Through this tuition guarantee, new students would have a consistent rate throughout all four years of college, eliminating the fear of cost increases and providing an opportunity to budget and plan ahead. House Bill 49 also requires institutions to study textbook costs and report their findings to the Chancellor of Higher Education—a small reform among many that strives to remove cost burdens from students.
We also worked to ensure that Ohio’s children receive the care and attention they deserve. I previously discussed funding for the Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps (BCMH), a program that had its status at risk under the executive proposal. Under the House budget bill, we restored BCMH and funded it at $3 million per year, giving the families of these children more financial stability. Additionally, we increased funds for Child, Family, and Community Protection Services by $15 million per year and maintained the increase in funding to the Ohio’s Children’s Trust Fund—providing more in the fight against child abuse and neglect.
Our state budget is a more than 4,500-page document that outlines the funding for all aspects of our state government, keeping Ohio running full-steam ahead. The measures outlined above only encompass a small portion of this bill, but they reflect the goals of the House Majority Caucus—to restrain spending while giving precedence to the most essential services. However, there is more work to be done before the budget’s final passage and I look forward to working with the Senate and Governor to ensure we pass a responsible, balanced budget.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.