After four months of work the Ohio General Assembly passed the biennial budget bill (HB 110) with bipartisan support, after making historic tax cuts and reforming the state’s school funding formula. The HB 110 Conference Committee met for weeks before advancing the compromise report with unanimous support. The Senate then voted 32-1 and the House voted 82-13, to send the final bill to the governor. The final version of HB 110 provides over $74 billion in GRF spending over the next two years. Favorable revenue forecasts for the state allowed lawmakers to make massive cuts to personal income taxes, totaling more than $1.6 billion. The tax changes include a reduction of 3% in personal income taxes beginning in 2021. Additionally, HB 110 eliminates the highest tax bracket, which reduces the number of brackets from five to four. Just a few years ago Ohio had seven tax brackets. The move to reduce the number of tax brackets is an effort to advance towards the goal of many GOP lawmakers, which is a flat tax rate. HB 110 also increased the income level at which the first tax bracket begins, from $22,150 to $25,000.
Even with the massive cut in taxes, legislators were able to make investments in multiple issues, the most high-profile being school funding. After over three-years of work, lawmakers adopted a new system for funding primary and secondary education. The proposal, which was developed by Speaker Bob Cupp and former legislator John Patterson, would establish new individualized base costs per pupil for each of the state’s school districts and determine every district’s capacity for generating revenue locally based on property and income factors within a community. While the proposal met pushback in the Senate, which raised concerns that the costs of the House plan could balloon over its proposed six-year phase-in, the conference committee largely accepted the House plan, but limited the formula to two years, to ensure the bill doesn’t tie the hands of future legislators.
In addition to education, HB 110, provides $150 million for building demolition and site revitalization, $350 million for brownfield remediation, and $250 million for broadband expansion grants. The bipartisan vote on the budget was welcomed by many, including Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, who said, “my hope is that we use this as a starting point, and my hope is that for the next 18 months we continue to work together, we continue to make things happen, because we can, and we must.”
Governor DeWine signed HB 110 on June 30th. Prior to signing the budget bill, the governor issued 14 vetoes striking language impacting numerous issues, including COVID-19 violations, Medicaid managed care procurement, nursing facility quality incentive payments, and the General Assembly’s intervention in lawsuits. The governor’s signature marks the end of the lengthy budget process that started on February 1st, when the DeWine Administration first rolled out the proposal. The governor praised the bill as assisting Ohioans by investing in our communities, businesses, and economy. The Ohio House and Senate can override the governor’s vetoes; however, there has been no indication given from either the House or Senate if they plan to do so.
Governor DeWine also signed the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget (HB 75). After weeks of negotiations, a conference committee reported the $715 million biennial spending plan. Much of the debate over HB 75 centered on language added by the Senate to address concerns over a provision that would allow a journalist to request names of workers’ compensation claimants. The compromise that was reached, limits that access if the claim resulted from sexual assault in the workplace and prohibits a journalist who obtains that information from releasing it for reasons other than journalism.
Governor Mike DeWine signed HB 168 which included over $2 billion in federal funding provided to Ohio through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). HB 168 became the vehicle for the most recent COVID relief efforts, after it was amended in the Senate. The legislation uses approximately $1.5 billion in ARPA funding to pay off the federal unemployment compensation debt incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paying off the debt saves Ohioans, specifically businesses, from paying future penalties, as the debt would have started accumulating interest in September. HB 168 also provides $422 million for local governments, including townships, with populations under 50,000. Additionally, the bill creates a $250 million water and sewer infrastructure grant program under the Department of Development and allocates $84 million for pediatric behavioral health services. HB 168 was passed with bipartisan support in both chambers.
The Ohio House of Representatives this month voted to expel former Speaker Larry Householder from office. The historic vote, which marks the first time since before the Civil War that the House voted to expel a member, came after Householder was arrested and indicted on a racketeering charge surrounding HB 6th from the 133rd General Assembly. Householder, the two-time speaker, spoke in his defense, claiming that he has never taken a bribe and that the members of the House didn’t hire him, the people of the 72nd District did, and that supporting the expulsion resolution (HR 69) is “disparaging the people of this state.” Speaker Bob Cupp, who voted in support of the resolution, acknowledged the difficulty of the vote, but said members of the chamber wanted to “put this behind us.”
The House GOP wasted little time replacing Householder, selecting Kevin Miller of Newark to represent the 72ndDistrict. Miller served as the State Highway Patrol’s legislative liaison and prior to that served as a trooper, labor relations advocate, and post commander. “I am honored by the opportunity to serve the 72nd House District and look forward to working on the issues affecting Coshocton, Licking, and Perry counties and ensuring our communities’ voices are heard in Columbus.”
House Democrats will also be required to replace a member, as Rep. Erica Crawley of Columbus was recently selected to fill a vacancy on the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. Crawley serves as ranking minority member of the House Finance Committee. She replaces former county commissioner Marilyn Brown, who resigned earlier this year.