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Guest Column from State Representative Scott Wiggam: The State Operating Budget

July 20, 2017
Scott Wiggam News

Every two years Ohio is required to enact a balanced budget. Introduced by the governor and amended by the House and Senate, this budget allocates anticipated revenues to various state agencies and other government functions, including schools, libraries and local government.  

Throughout the budgetary process, I met with many state agencies, non-profits, and constituents to discuss important issues we currently face.  Although I do not agree with some provisions of this budget, I voted in favor of this plan for Ohio’s future due to the following accomplishments.  This budget:

Combats 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.

Strengthens Accountability within the Medicaid Program

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.

Modernizes 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.

Lowers 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.

Invests in Public Safety in Wayne County

The budget includes $500,000 for a new “burn building” at the Wayne County Fire & Rescue Association Regional Training Facility.  This building will replace a rapidly declining structure therefore ensuring that firefighters from around the state that are trained here in Wayne County will have that best training available.

Increases Public Library Funding

The budget increases funding to Ohio libraries by $17,293,000 (or 2.3%) over the prior two-year cycle.

As your state representative, it is my responsibility to ensure your tax dollars are spent efficiently and responsibly.  This biennium budget slows the growth of state government under the rate of inflation and still focuses on the issues that matter to Ohioans.  We have more work to do in the legislature to control state spending and ultimately decrease taxes on hard-working Ohioans, but this budget is a large step in the right direction.