Ohio lawmakers reached a deal on the two-year state budget bill that includes a $680 million net tax cut over two years, new high school graduation requirements, a one-year moratorium on state takeovers of struggling school districts and reforms to Ohio Medicaid.
The six-member conference committee voted 5-1 to send the new version of the bill to the House and Senate for floor votes on Wednesday. After that, the 3,000-plus page bill heads to Gov. Mike DeWine for line item vetoes and signature.
Lawmakers blew a June 30 deadline to pass the operating budget and instead passed a measure to keep state government open through July 17. The state budget bill lays out how Ohio will spend roughly $141 billion over two years.
After weeks of backroom negotiations between the House and Senate, the new deal includes:
— a 4% across-the-board personal income tax cut and elimination of the bottom two tax brackets;
— preservation of the business tax break that allows partnerships, LLCs and sole proprietorships to avoid paying state tax on the first $250,000 in revenue with some restrictions on lawyers and lobbyists;
— Ohio Medicaid will pick a single pharmacy benefits manager to oversee its $2.5 billion prescription drug program;
— $655 million over two years for wrap around services for K-12 schools to pay for counselors, mental health programs and other supports;
— a moratorium on state takeovers of struggling school districts, giving lawmakers time to more fully address how the system should be changed;
— changing high school graduation requirements, beginning with the class of 2023, that would mandate students pass 20 credits, earn two “diploma seals” from a list of options and score competent on algebra and English exams unless they enlist in the military or earn college credits in math and English.
Lawmakers also moved to give businesses relief from government regulations, endorsing a plan to eliminate two rules for every new rule adopted in state government. Advocates for the regulatory reform say it’ll eliminate unnecessary, burdensome rules that hamper businesses while opponents called it unwarranted.
The budget plan also will:
- move the 2020 presidential primary date to March 17, which is opposed by many Cleveland area Democrats who say it’ll conflict with St. Patrick’s Day festivities;
- allow high school students to fulfill their gym class requirement by participating in show choir;
- count computer programming as a foreign language in high school;
- bump up minimum starting salaries for teachers to $30,000;
- expand the EdChoice scholarship program that provides money for students to attend private schools;
- retain a $40 million a year tax credit for motion picture production work done in Ohio;
- allow Montgomery County officials to authorize a 3% bed tax to generate money to refurbish the Dayton Convention Center.
Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said the budget provides tax cuts and delivers on DeWine’s plan to increase funding for children and environmental protection.
Obhof said the Senate is planning to vote Wednesday on a two-year budget for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, which will not include provisions to cover post traumatic stress disorder as an acquired on-the-job condition for police and firefighters. Instead, that issue will be addressed in a stand alone bill, he said.
Energy bill vote also set for Wednesday
The Senate also plans to vote Wednesday on House Bill 6, a sweeping energy bill designed to provide $150 million a year in subsidies to keep open two aging nuclear power plants owned by First Energy Solutions, scale back renewable energy standards, provide subsidies for coal-fired plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corp., and eventually make energy efficiency programs voluntary for utility companies.
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