COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — State lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives from both sides of the aisle have come to an agreement on the state’s budget.
The budget was favorably reported out of the House Finance Committee on Tuesday afternoon, with just one ‘no’ vote. As drafted, the state’s budget would cut tax revenue by $930 million and cuts income taxes for Ohioans making between $46,000 and $92,000 dollars.
“Those are the people that don’t qualify for most other forms of government aide and are having the hardest time paying for their groceries and gas and all the other inflation items going up,” said Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati).
The budget increases Ohio’s school teacher minimum wage to $40,000 a year. It also implements the fair school funding plan for public schools in Ohio, an effort both Democrats and Republicans agreed was necessary.
“This was not about policy, this was about putting people first,” said Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Westlake).
The budget expands the school choice voucher program eligibility, but does not make it universal, something lawmakers like Rep. Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) said they will introduce as a floor amendment. Making the school choice universal is expected to cost the state around one billion dollars.
“Financially it would throw our budget out of wack,” Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said. “We’d be above the state appropriations limitations.”
A big difference between the governor’s budget and the house budget is the way one-time money is being allocated.
“We had a lot of issues with the governor’s one time money ask because we thought it went into programs, we wanted to make sure we spent that on one-time things like infrastructure, community projects, things like that,” Edwards said. “Hopefully those one time projects make a difference, but, I think sustainability, we have to be fiscally responsible moving forward.”
The bill also raises the maximum number of sports gaming facilities that may be located in a county with a population more than 800,000 people, from five to seven. Still, the state limit remains the same.
“It is going to expand it to allow the dormant ones to be used,” Edwards said. “I’m sure some of the casinos and folks aren’t happy about that and its fine, we had members who were really passionate about it and making sure that if the state allocated a certain amount of licenses, then they are being used around the state.”
In addition, the bill creates a commission to study the present and future of the lottery, casino, sports gaming and horse racing.
“We’re hearing a lot about iLottery, there’s some members that want it some who don’t, however I think there’s a lot to understanding what that actually will mean,” Edwards said. “We are hearing a lot about iGaming and iCasino. I think we need to study this before we just go, and we may be looking for additional revenue source in the next few years.”
The more than 5,000-page budget does a range of other things, from investing $200 million in career technical construction programs to allocating $1 million dollars for public safety costs related to the 2024 total eclipse.
The bill will have a house floor vote on Wednesday. Edwards said like any budget he is expecting a decent amount of floor amendments but is hopeful it passes with bi-partisan support. The budget would then move on to Senate committee hearings.