Ohio’s Republican Legislature Passes Massive Budget Increase


COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate overwhelmingly passed House Bill 166 on Wednesday.

Arriving at the final version of the biennial budget had been a source of contention between the two chambers, resulting in a 17-day extension. But the hatchet was buried and the Conference Committee version of the budget easily passed after a couple hours of debate.

The spending in the original budget offered by Gov. Mike DeWine totaled $69.6 billion for the fiscal year 2020, a 4.1 percent increase, and $71.3 billion for fiscal year 2021, a 2.5 percent increase. The final numbers were: $70.3 billion for July 2019 through June 30, 2020, and $73 billion for the last year of the two year budget. The funding amounts grew with each iteration of the bill.

The Conference Committee was Chaired by State Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton). The vice-chairman was State Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls). Minority members included State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) and State Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta). The final two members were State Rep. Jim Butler (R-Oakwood) and State Sen. Dave Burke (R-Marysville).

Republicans in both Chambers trumpeted the budget. Several commented on the expansive increase in spending for education, especially the $675 million for “Student Wellness and Success,” which was lauded by members in both parties. State Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) praised the record amount of school funding.

“I am very proud to stand here and support that,” he stated.

In the upper house, State Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) remarked that the Senate’s version of the bill initially passed unanimously, 33-0, and noted that the Conference Committee left the majority of their bill intact. “We are passing a great budget for the state of Ohio,” he said. His sentiments were shared by the majority of Republican Senators who spoke and all of them voted for the bill.

In the Senate, only one member voted against the final version of the budget — State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). Her objections centered around education issues. She had supported the Senate’s original version of the budget because it eliminated the Academic Distress Commission, an entity created by the Legislature to allow state takeovers of chronically failing public school districts. Currently, three districts, including Lorain, East Cleveland, and Youngstown City Schools, serving 14,266 students, are affected, Fedor told her fellow Senators, and 10 additional districts are on the verge of academic distress.

“Governing by crisis is not working for us,” Fedor declared. She also took issue with the expansion of vouchers, the continuation of charter schools, and the use of the state report card, which she believes is an inaccurate measurement of student achievement.

“I am voting ‘no’ because of my conviction of knowing how important it is to have a strong public education for all children,” she said.

Democrats in both the House and Senate complained about money being given to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) claimed that “Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) engage in tactics that are coercive and threatening, according to the American Public Health Association.”

Citizens for Community Values had a very different perspective on funding CPCs.

“While NARAL Ohio and the pro-abortion groups are promoting lies, the General Assembly has shown Ohio values the lives of unborn children and their mothers by allocating $7.5 million over the next two years to support the work of pregnancy centers,” declared President Aaron Baer in a press release immediately following passage.

Robert Alt, president of The Buckeye Institute, said the budget contains a “number of good policies,” but cautioned against its “unsustainable” levels of funding.

“However, policymakers passed up the opportunity to adopt greater tax reform that would have allowed Ohioans to keep more of their hard-earned money and would have spurred greater economic growth and refused to rein in government spending,” Alt said in a press release. “Instead, policymakers increased spending by another $1.4 billion over what the Senate passed just four weeks ago. This unsustainable level of spending endangers Ohio’s ability to weather future economic downturns.”

Appropriations go into effect immediately, while policy changes go into effect in 90 days.

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to [email protected].






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