COLUMBUS—The Ohio Senate approved legislation today doubling the maximum income tax deduction to $4,000 per beneficiary for contributions to college savings accounts and disability expense savings accounts with the goal of helping Ohio families save for their children's futures. 

"For parents of a child living with a disability, the concern for their long-term well-being can be a constant source of anxiety," said State Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering). "This additional tax relief seeks to ease the burden for parents and families as they set aside savings for their children's futures."

Senate Bill 5 builds on a law passed in 2016, which established Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings accounts so families with a mentally or physically disabled child can have more post-tax dollars available to spend on treatments that arise from the disability. Additionally, the bill establishes the Joint Committee on Ohio College Affordability to study and develop innovative strategies to reduce the cost of attending college in the state. 

"As the cost of higher education continues to rise, it has become increasingly difficult for students and families to afford a college degree without accumulating substantial amounts of student loan debt," said State Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City). "Incentives for families to save for college also help encourage earlier discussions about potential career pathways. This should have a positive impact on our region's ability to keep pace with the growing demand for skilled workers."

Increasing the tax deduction for contributions to an Ohio college savings plan will allow families to save more money over time in order to prepare for higher education costs. Other states, including Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have increased their allowed tax deductions for contributions to a 529 college savings plan.

Senate Bill 5 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Similar language contained in the Senate's version of the biennial state budget, which was announced earlier this week.

Strengthening Awareness to Help Families Find Missing Children

The Senate also approved legislation today designating May 25 as "National Missing Children's Day," which is a day aimed at enhancing awareness about missing children and providing support for parents and families searching for their loved ones.

"A child gone missing is every parent’s worst nightmare turned into reality," said State Senator Bob Hackett (R-London), who sponsored the bill in the Ohio Senate. "We want to reassure families that we join them in their resolve to bring their child home, no matter how much time has passed. We owe it to these families to do all we can to inform the public and support efforts to find their missing children."

In February 1999, nine-year-old Erica Baker, of Kettering, went missing. Her disappearance prompted a search which ultimately led to the conviction of one of the men responsible for the child's death and disappearance.

"As a mother, there's no greater worry than for the safety of your children," said Lehner. "It is my hope that by increasing awareness on this issue, we can strengthen vigilance in our community and encourage our neighbors to report suspicious activity to law enforcement. We must also keep the families experiencing this heartache in our thoughts and prayers." 

Earlier this year, Greg Baker, Erica's father, testified before the Senate's Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee in support of the legislation. In Baker's testimony, he cited the need for increasing awareness about missing children and demonstrating solidarity with families that continue to search for missing family members.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Meghan McCarthy, representing the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, also testified in support of Senate Bill 86. 

Senate Bill 86 now goes to the House of Representative for further consideration. 

Serving Ohio's Injured Workers and Supporting Businesses

Members of the Ohio Senate also approved House Bill 28, referred to as the biennial Industrial Commission budget, which serves injured workers and provides support for businesses by adjudicating workers' compensation claims and keeping thousands of disputes out of Ohio's court system.

"I am pleased that Ohio has been able to continue finding new opportunities to eliminate inefficiencies. Further savings will prove beneficial for both workers and employers," said Hackett. 

This is the fourth consecutive budget with a decrease due to efficiencies achieved by the agency. In 2015, as a member of the House of Representatives, Senator Hackett sponsored the Commission's last budget, which constituted a $6.9 million decrease compared to the previous two-year budget. 

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