COLUMBUS—State Representative Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) announced that the Ohio House of Representatives has approved the conference committee report on Amended Substitute House Bill 49, the state operating budget. With a major focus on combating Ohio’s dangerous drug epidemic and ensuring that schools receive vital funding, the legislation provides support to areas most in need and keeps spending under the rate of inflation over the biennium.
“Working on the state budget as a freshman legislator has been eye-opening. The biggest challenge of working on this particular state budget has been to adapt to the difficult economic environment while trying to responsibly address the most pressing needs of our communities,” said Rep. Lanese. “As we fight the opioid epidemic, educate our children, and ensure the safety of our residents, we must be fiscally responsible for our future generations of Ohioans. My particular priorities in this budget have been to enable South-Western City Schools to access millions of dollars in Ohio School Facilities Commission funds through regulatory language, to provide fair water prices to the communities that pay a crippling water surcharge, to increase first responders’ access to the best communication technologies, and to partially restore funding to our local libraries.”
The bill addresses the following issues, among others:
COMBATING THE DRUG EPIDEMIC
As championed by the House through the Ohio HOPES (Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education and Safety) Agenda, the budget tackles the state’s drug epidemic head-on with funding totaling $180 million in new money. Investments focused on the areas of prevention, treatment, mental health care and workforce programs ensure that communities across Ohio, both rural and urban, receive the support they need to educate young people, help those who are addicted and prevent overdose deaths, which is a statistic that continues to rise.
Enhancing opportunities for all Ohioans is a central component of the state operating budget with an increase in K-12 education funding by $154 million in FY’18 and $120 million in FY’ 19. The bill also increases per-pupil funding and rewards high-performing educational service centers.
LOWERING THE COST OF HIGHER EDUCATION
The bill promotes tuition guarantee programs to provide more cost consistency to students while also requiring colleges to study textbook expenses in order to ultimately reduce the cost of obtaining a college degree.
STRENGTHENING ACCOUNTABILITY WITHIN THE MEDICAID PROGRAM
House Bill 49 makes Ohio the first state to seek a federal waiver to freeze new enrollment to the Medicaid Group VIII expansion population with certain exemptions (the drug addicted and mentally ill). Additionally, through a series of provisions, the budget strengthens accountability in the state’s Medicaid program by placing guardrails on future Medicaid Group VIII spending through the Controlling Board. The bill also returns Medicaid oversight to the General Assembly by directing the Department of Medicaid to seek a federal waiver to require a Group VIII Medicaid recipient to be one of the following: over 55, medically fragile, employed, in an education or workforce training program, or in a recovery program.
MODERNIZING THE CAUV (CURRENT AGRICULTURAL USE VALUE) FORMULA
Through various reforms to be phased in over a six-year period, the bill aims to offer property tax relief for farmers by reducing the taxable value of farmland.
Rep. Lanese also championed the following measures, which were included in House Bill 49:
Ohio Facilities Construction Commission Segmenting Policy, which allows school districts that have experienced many changes, like South-Western City Schools in the 23rd House District, to adjust their school facilities plan according to its per-pupil valuation and what it can afford when constructing school facilities.
Equalization of sewer and water rates for citizens in Franklin County who are not Columbus residents. This change will end unfair practices, like charging those in non-Columbus territories higher rates for sewer and water, currently carried out by the City of Columbus, which operates the only sewer system in central Ohio.
MARCS communication system fee reduction, enabled through an appropriation of $2 million each fiscal year from the general revenue to the MARCS Administration Fund.
Am. Sub. H.B. 49 will now head to the Governor for his consideration.