COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Small businesses and local communities would share most of a $1 billion initiative to help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic, under Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s two-year, $75 billion state budget that includes millions for the environment, law enforcement, schools, and prisons. Some details:
— Early estimates by the governor and lawmakers of revenue needed to fund the budget are about $838 million apart. DeWine’s budget office is projecting $24.8 billion in tax revenue for the fiscal year beginning in July and $25.6 billion for the following year, or about $838 million lower than the Legislative Service Commission figure. Ohio Budget Director Kimberly Murnieks says the difference is relatively small and a typical discrepancy at this point in the process.
— The $1 billion “Investing in Ohio Initiative,” a combination of state and federal dollars, provides more than $450 million in relief for small businesses and $450 million local community infrastructure projects, with $250 million of that going toward expanding broadband access to rural parts of the state. House lawmakers have approved a separate bill that would tap $150 million of that broadband funding. The investment initiative would also use $50 million to promote Ohio to a “national audience” in a PR campaign meant to bring new residents to the state as well as convince former residents to return.
— The governor proposes spending $10 million on grants to allow hundreds of law enforcement agencies to buy body-worn cameras. As of February, only 183 of the state’s about 900 law enforcement agencies both have body cameras for officers and are following the standards set by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board.
— The governor has also incorporated anti-crime proposals into the budget that fellow GOP lawmakers refused to act on last year. They include mandatory data entry on warrants for serious crimes into state and federal background check databases, increased penalties for people found in illegal possession of a gun, and increased penalties for so-called straw purchases, when a third-party buys a weapon for someone prohibited from such purchases.
— DeWine wants to use budget language to renew his effort to make distracted driving reason enough for police to pull someone over. DeWine’s proposal would address such activities as writing, sending or looking at texts, watching or recording photos or videos, or livestreaming while handling an electronic device, among other activities. House Republicans pulled the measure Thursday, saying they don’t want to address criminal law in a funding bill.
— DeWine’s proposal provides about $13.4 billion annually to schools, up by about $1 billion this year. The plan includes $1.1 billion to support Student Wellness and Success Funds, a program launched by DeWine during the last budget that fosters continued partnerships between schools and districts and local organizations providing social services to students. DeWine didn’t dramatically adjust regular state funding for schools in anticipation of a legislative school-funding bill later this year.
— The governor wants to spend $78.5 million over two years on Ohio foster care and children’s services programs. The funding includes: $32 million to expand the OhioSTART program, which provides services to families and particularly children who have suffered due to parental drug use; and $24 million to expand to every county a partnership between the state and adoption program Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, established by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
— The budget will allocate funding to provide incarcerated Ohioans struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems with access to resources for recovery. The investment plans to expand access to counseling, peer support, technology and medication within the state’s correctional facilities.
— The H2Ohio water quality initiative, introduced in 2019, will receive nearly $250 million to continue the state’s effort to clean up toxic algae in Lake Erie and protect other lakes and rivers throughout Ohio.
OHIO STATE HIGHWAY PATROL
— The House Finance Committee provides an extra $70 million for the Ohio State Highway Patrol while eliminating a proposal by DeWine for a $10 increase in motor vehicle registration fees and a $2 increase to the title fee. The Department of Public Safety said the increases are needed to fill a $133 million budget shortfall.