Work continues on the DeWine Administration’s proposed biennial budget bill (HB 110), which was introduced in February. The proposed legislation appropriates nearly $75 million in GRF spending over the next two years. The budget proposal does not increase taxes and also does not borrow from the state’s “rainy day” fund. Helping Ohio’s financial situation was the federal government taking on an increased share of Medicaid spending. The increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage has saved the state about $300 million per quarter. While it is uncertain whether this assistance will be extended past 2021, it has allowed the state to redirect resources away from Medicaid and to other programs. Debate on the measure has started in the House and they will be reviewing amendments throughout the month of March before making changes and sending it to the Senate in mid-to-late April. The main operating budget will need to be signed by the governor by June 30th.
In addition to the main operating budget, the House is also in the process of reviewing the budget proposal for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). Interim BWC Administrator/CEO John Logue told the House Insurance Committee this month that the BWC budget, which calls for $353.2 million in FY 2022 and $361.9 million in FY 2023, is entirely supported by premiums and assessments and not from the General Revenue Fund. The proposed budget would help maintain effective care for injured workers with focuses on workplace safety, prevention, innovation, and keeping costs low for businesses. This session’s BWC budget is light on policy changes, unlike last session’s BWC budget, which was amended in the House to include controversial policy proposals like granting PTSD coverage for first responders without an accompanying physical injury.
In other legislation, the Ohio Trucking Association continues to work with legislators on efforts to address the driver shortage facing the industry. Lawmakers have reintroduced two bills from last session that would help remove financial barriers for individuals attending CDL school and incentivize trucking companies to train their own drivers. HB 129, introduced by Reps. Hoops and Sobecki, would establish a $5 million per year Commercial Truck Driver Student Aid Program that would provide individuals attending CDL school with loan and scholarship opportunities. This program is needed now more than ever, since funding was removed from the OhioMeansJobs Workforce Revolving Loan Program last session. A majority of the funding in this program went to individuals attending CDL school, and with the program now eliminated, individuals will have difficulty overcoming the financial barrier associated with attending a CDL school. HB 197, introduced by Reps. Stoltzfus and Creech, would create an income tax credit to companies that provide training opportunities to drivers. The $3 million program would provide companies with up to $25,000 in tax credits. A similar measure was passed by the House last session 91-1.