After a very time-consuming and deliberative process, the Ohio House of Representatives passed its version of the state operating budget. But our work continues. Not only must we have further conversations on certain topics as the Senate works on its version of the budget, but we will also likely need to work out the differences between the two bodies before Governor Kasich ultimately agrees to sign it at the end of June.
If you have seen the news or talked with friends about how the budget affects them, you have probably know that it contains a lot of information essential to how our state functions. Some of the reforms in the budget are far-reaching, affecting nearly every resident, while others are specific to a particular school district, community, or other organization.
I was proud of the responsible way we handled the financial mess of an $8 billion budget imbalance during our last budgeting process. It required difficult spending reductions and program reforms that ultimately led to us to spend $2 billion less just from FY’11 to FY’12. Taxpayers saved nearly $1 billion with that budget, and our new budget builds on much of the momentum and economic progress stemmed from the previous one.
In the new budget, which is for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015, we are dealing with the allocation of $61.5 billion. It contains reforms on everything from taxes to health care to education—all of which I will be addressing more specifically in the upcoming weeks. While some provisions receive near universal approval, others have passionate advocates on all sides.
When working on the budget, or any piece of legislation, it is very important to legislators that members of the public who feel a certain way on a topic can have their voices heard. This is why having committee meetings, where we break down a piece of legislation, are an excellent opportunity to learn more about the effects of the bill’s language and watch the process unfold.
Unlike past years, all of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee hearings were streamed live and archived on the House’s website – OhioHouse.gov. I encourage you to watch if you have not already done so. We received tremendous, positive feedback since making this available, and I’m sure all Ohioans can be proud of the fair and transparent manner in which Chairman Ron Amstutz and the other members of the Finance Committee conducted themselves throughout the process.
In talking with members of the committee and other members of the House, it is clear to me that getting Ohio back on track is at the heart of every decision being made by members of the House. While Ohio has come a long way since January 2011, we have a long way yet to go. The budget passed by the House is one more step in the direction of economic recovery.