One of the most crucial, founding parts of a state legislative term is the drafting of our state budget. Perhaps no other piece of legislation better defines the principles of your state government, and of the House Republican Caucus, more than the budget bill. Not only is it a process that takes six months of teamwork and collaboration between all facets of state government, but it is the plan that sets the spending and operations of the entire state for the next two fiscal years. Considering all of this—it is a pretty important document, one that is often thousands of pages long!
A couple weeks ago, the House and the Senate agreed upon a final version of Amended Substitute House Bill 49, the budget bill for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, to send to the Governor for his signature. This budget was the fourth that I have been a part of while serving in the Ohio House, and it was certainly unique to those previously passed. The House Republican Caucus worked especially hard to restrain spending and maintain tax certainty, while still addressing the most pressing needs and concerns of Ohioans.
The original budget proposal called for balancing income tax reductions with nearly equal combined increases in the sales, severance, tobacco and vapor, and commercial activity taxes. However, demonstrating a constant commitment to low taxes and a consistent tax structure, the House removed all of these tax increases—keeping more money in the hands of Ohio’s hardworking citizens and growing businesses. By ensuring this stability and predictability, our state has a clearer path forward towards greater growth.
To further ensure the success of individuals and communities, we directed resources and developed creative ideas regarding education. In House Bill 49, we upheld local control for schools while guaranteeing that a majority of districts will not lose state funding for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 and by increasing per-pupil funding. This dedication to our children, our future, extends to higher education in the budget, through the prioritization of a cost effective attainment of a college degree, made easier through innovative tuition controls. Furthermore, various provisions in the legislation encourage pathways toward a non-traditional secondary education, which are typically less costly and time consuming but lead to fulfilling and successful careers.
Of course, much of this progress is at risk without getting control over the detrimental heroin and opioid epidemic threatening the health of our state. As I have continuously remarked, the solution to this crisis requires a multi-faceted and aggressive approach with help from all interested parties and all corners of the state. Through the HOPES Agenda in the budget, we are devoting $180 million in new money towards this issue, focusing primarily on treatment, prevention, mental health, and workforce reintegration. With this coordinated care and a greater investment, we can hope to put an end to this all-encompassing problem by educating our future generations and getting those who need care proper rehabilitation.
The state budget covers a wide range of topics, from healthcare to criminal justice reform, and the provisions I discussed above are only a snapshot of the hard work that the state has put forth so far during 2017. I am proud of the final budget bill that the House developed in coordination with the Senate and the Governor, as it represents our promise of fiscal responsibility and will benefit and support Ohio’s citizens, families, and communities.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.