COLUMBUS - State Senator Frank LaRose (R-Copley) today announced the Senate passage of Substitute House Bill 64, the state's 2-year budget proposal, with a 23-10 vote. The bill includes substantial new funding for education and more than $1.75 billion in tax relief for hardworking Ohioans and small business owners. 

"This budget plan funds essential priorities in a way that is both efficient and equitable," said LaRose. "It is a balanced plan that continues to reduce barriers to economic growth while investing in education and maintaining support for the people who need it most."

The Senate budget includes a number of amendments supported by LaRose, including:
  • Electronic Pollbooks: Allocates $12.75 million to fund the purchase of electronic pollbooks in all 88 counties. The state will provide 85 percent of the equipment cost, and counties are responsible for covering the remaining 15 percent. County boards of election can choose to opt out of participating and continue to use paper pollbooks in their elections.
  • Absentee Ballot Application Mailing: Maintains $1.25 million included in the House version for the Ohio Secretary of State to mail absentee-ballot applications statewide, improving voting access and shortening lines at the polls.
     
  • PTSD Coverage: Includes PTSD coverage in Ohio Workers' Compensation Law for police officers, firefighters and first responders who are diagnosed with PTSD arising from employment. Regardless of whether or not the diagnosis of PTSD is accompanied by a physical injury, eligible individuals will receive compensation for up to one year.
     
  • Medicaid for Pregnant Women: Restores Medicaid coverage for several programs for pregnant women with incomes ranging from 138 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, including breast and cervical cancer screenings.
     
  •  Funding Research and Development at the University of Akron: Creates jobs and contributes to the national defense by appropriating $2 million per fiscal year for the University of Akron's National Center of Education Research on Corrosion and Materials Performance (NCERCAMP). Through NCERCAMP, the University of Akron has been collaborating with Airborne Maintenance & Engineering Services in Wilmington and U.S. Technology Corporation in Canton to demonstrate and validate a corrosion repair process for commercial and military aircraft applications.
"This budget includes a number of provisions of which I am deeply proud," said LaRose. "Providing state funding for electronic pollbooks and mailing absentee ballot applications statewide is a game changer for county boards of elections that are striving to shorten voting lines while maintaining accuracy."

Among the major highlights in the bill, the Senate-passed budget:
  • Support for Essential Services: Appropriates $33 million over the biennium to the Department of Developmental Disabilities' Medicaid Services to correct unintentional funding reductions from caseload estimates. It also restores or provides additional funding for essential services, such as pregnancy care, breast and cervical cancer screenings for women, foodbank services, and various healthcare, arts and youth programs, all of which give Ohioans opportunities to improve their lives, health and economic situations.
  • Tax Relief: Reduces Ohio’s income tax rate by 6.3 percent, returning $1.26 billion to taxpayers over the next two years, allowing Ohioans the opportunity to keep more of their hard-earned money. Eliminates the entire state tax burden on small businesses with income up to $250,000 and creates an innovative, new 3% flat tax for small businesses above that income level. 
     
  • Reduces Spending: Spends less overall than any previous state budget plan introduced this year to date. It also reduces proposed overall Medicaid spending by more than $1 billion, giving the state the opportunity to focus on finding efficiencies and improved patient outcomes.
     
  • Investing in K-12: Invests more than $935 million new dollars into students and schools over the next two years ($351.5 million in FY16 and maintains that additional funding in FY17 while adding $233 million more) and holds all districts harmless to FY15 funding amounts. It provides an opportunity for predictability and sustainability for school districts, driving additional dollars to low-wealth, low-capacity districts while ensuring that more districts are on the funding formula. The Senate-passed version of the budget also implements various testing reform recommendations of the Senate Advisory Committee on Testing, such as reducing hours of required testing.
     
  • Higher Ed Affordability and Support: Makes the largest state investment in SSI (state share of instruction) for higher education in eight years. The bill also gives college students and their families the opportunity for a more affordable college education by instituting a two-year freeze on tuition rate increases and requiring Ohio’s public universities and colleges to find ways to reduce student costs by five percent.
The bill will now be referred to a conference committee that will reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions. The Ohio Constitution requires that the budget be balanced, and by law, the bill must be signed by the Governor on or before July 1.

The Ohio Channel will begin broadcasting the Conference Committee at 10:00am on Friday, June 19, 2015. To watch the live stream, visit http://www.ohiochannel.org/
 
 
 
  
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