Columbus - 
Dull moments have been few and far between since entering the Ohio Senate in January of this year. However, the past three months have been especially busy as my colleagues and I worked to develop a responsible state budget for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013. Now that the process has ended, I am glad to report that we were able to produce a balanced plan that cuts spending, eliminates a gaping $8 billion shortfall, and reduces taxes on Ohio's families. Whereas the previous budget resorted to using one-time federal funding to temporarily close a budget shortfall two years ago, Governor Kasich and legislators faced the challenge of bringing a real solution to our ever-growing budget deficit. That is why Senate Republicans engaged budget negotiations with three vital goals in mind: recovery, relief and reform. This bill removes the freeze that had previously been placed on the final phase-in of a 21-percent income tax cut initially approved in 2005. The move is expected to place more than $800 million back into Ohioans' wallets. Over the next biennium, homeowners will see $1.7 billion in annual Property Tax relief, and communities will soon be taking advantage of new tax credits aimed at retaining existing jobs and developing our economy. Also, because of this budget bill 2013 will mark the end of the Estate Tax that has been a concern to the farmers and small businesses of our state for several decades. Putting Ohio back to work is paramount, and two major initiatives contained in the bill will further bolster our business community. We created InvestOhio, which allows many who make investments in small businesses to receive tax credits of 10 percent, provided that they maintain their investment for at least two years. Another innovative, new initiative is JobsOhio, a public- private effort focused on generating jobs and stimulating the economy, modeled after our own Dayton Development Coalition. In order for Ohio to succeed, our small businesses must be successful. It remains the job of those in Columbus to ensure that small business owners are provided with reasons and advantages to stay in our state. Also included in the budget bill are several education reforms that I believe will make Ohio more competitive with other states while opening our children up to greater opportunities in the future. We have guaranteed that all school districts will receive at least their current level of basic state funding (excluding federal stimulus funding) over the biennium, while introducing a plan to incentivize schools whose excellence in the classroom stands out. The Ohio Department of Education will develop a new evaluation system for teachers that will reward and retain our best and brightest educators. New quality and operational controls have also been put in place for community schools, including revised criteria regarding the opening or closing of a school. These changes and others are centered on the philosophy of investing in our students rather than in bureaucracy. Finally, we are expanding private sector involvement to manage more of Ohio's prisons. Under the new policy, partnership with private sector management must save the state at least five percent in costs. I am confident that this measure, along with the recently enacted sentencing reforms of House Bill 86, can play a part in rectifying our most overcrowded and fiscally unsustainable facilities. Bold, innovative, and necessary, the initiatives contained in this budget allow us to embark on a journey toward economic recovery. I campaigned on making tough choices and working to help balance Ohio's budget, and I applaud the work done by Governor Kasich and my colleagues. I also realize that this is just the beginning. I remain committed to serving the people of the 5th Senate District and finding new ways to further expand our economy, grow our jobs, and invest in the future of our next generation of Ohioans.
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