STATEHOUSE - 
State Senator John Eklund (R-Munson Township) today announced the passage of Am. Sub. House Bill 64, the state’s two-year operating budget. The Senate voted 23-9 in favor of the conference report approved earlier in the day. The bill gives nearly $2 billion in tax cuts to Ohioans and makes significant investments in both K-12 and higher education.
 
“This balanced budget builds on our continuing efforts to help Ohioans keeps more of their money to invest in education and workforce development, to encourage job creation and take care of those in need,” said Eklund. “Ohio's improving performance has also allowed us to tackle some specific needs right here in our community through the budget.” 

The Senate budget includes a number of amendments supported by Senator Eklund, including: 
  • Support for Mental Health and Addiction Services: The Senate proposal provides funding for prevention and wellness services which will be allocated to Northeast Ohio Medical University’s campus safety and health programs.
     
  • Services for Victims: Provides new funding to assist the Chardon School District to provide comprehensive support for the school community in the wake of the 2012 Chardon school tragedy. This program offers support services for students after they have completed their high school coursework.
     
  • Addresses Water Drainage Issues: Provides funding for Mentor's wetland and storm water project and the Portage County-Aurora East storm water project; both work toward long term solutions to area flooding issues that have strained local resources.
     
  • Enhances Alzheimer’s Support Programs: Provides critical support for individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease, including respite caregiver support; adult day care; guardianship programs; elder protection; nutrition assistance and more.
“From storm water projects in Mentor and Shalersville, to community recovery in Chardon, to Northeast Ohio's Medical University's suicide prevention efforts, I know this bill will make a real positive difference in the lives of local Ohioans,” Eklund said. 
 
The bill provides significant tax relief and support to Ohioans and small businesses with the purpose of keeping the state’s economy healthy and growing. The $1.85 billion net tax cut includes an across the board 6.3 percent income tax cut for all Ohioans. The bill also makes permanent the 75 percent tax cut on small businesses’ first $250,000 of net income and increases it to 100 percent in FY17 and establishes a three percent flat tax on income above that. 
 
The proposal, which will become law with the Governor’s signature, also provides much needed sustainability and solvency to the state’s K-12 school funding formula, investing over $900 million dollars over the next two years. Based largely on the current formula, this budget ensures that no school district loses funding and drives additional dollars to low-wealth, low-capacity districts while ensuring more districts are on the funding formula.
 
A hallmark of the bill is the Senate’s focus on making college affordable and accessible. A two-year tuition freeze will go into effect, and universities and colleges are required to reduce student costs by five percent. This budget also makes the largest state investment in SSI (state share of instruction) in higher education in eight years and creates and funds the Higher Education Innovation Fund to assist institutions with their cost reduction efforts.
 
Additional highlights include:
  • Reducing Infant Mortality: Infuses funding and outcome-driven programs to areas with prevalent infant mortality problems.
     
  • Women’s Health Funding and Coverage: Restores funding for Medicaid coverage of pregnant women up to 200% of the poverty level and restores coverage for breast and cervical cancer screenings for women on Medicaid.
     
  • Support for Developmental Disability: Fully funds DD initiatives outlined in the Governor’s plan and provides funding for ABLE savings accounts for the developmentally disabled.
     
  • Improved Mental Health Care: Provisions included to integrate behavioral health care services into a managed care model.
     
  • Increased Police Training: Includes additional GRF funding for a total of nearly $20M for police training and community police relations initiatives.
     
  • Local Township Support: Adds $20M in a local government support fund specifically targeted to township needs.
     
  • Modernizing Ohio’s Elections: Includes $12.8M for a state-local partnership to provide county board of elections with new, digital electronic pollbook technology, making it even easier to vote in Ohio.
     
  • Relief for Ohio’s Waterways: Provides additional loan and tourism funding for Ohio’s distressed lakes.
     
  • Additional Student Aid: Includes $100M for need-based student aid through the Ohio College Opportunity Grant.
     
  • Building Our Savings: Increases the maximum allowable rainy-day fund from 5 percent of general revenue funds (GRF) to 8.5 percent.
 
The conference committee report now awaits a vote in the House before moving to the Governor for his signature. The bill must be signed into law before July 1, 2015.
 
 
 
  
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