Ohio Senate Republicans approve revised budget, including overhauls on K-12 and higher ed
The Ohio Senate will vote on a Republican-crafted budget on Thursday that features $3.1 billion in tax cuts and the inclusion of two controversial bills on K-12 and higher education.
The latest version of House Bill 33 passed out of the Senate Finance Committee in a party-line vote Wednesday. It'll be approved in a floor vote and then go to a conference committee to work out differences with the House budget.
The budget keeps the plan to reduce three state income tax brackets to two — 2.75% and 3.5% — but speeds it up. It also changes the state's main business tax, the commercial activity tax, so that 90% of businesses won't pay it after two years.
Senate Finance Chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) says the budget totals around $86 billion.
Dolan also confirmed the budget includes the higher education overhaul Senate Bill 83, which bans most diversity training and faculty strikes and requires expressions of "intellectual diversity" on a set of specific topics including electoral politics, marriage or abortion.
When asked why the bill, which hasn't passed the House, was included in the Senate budget, Dolan said, "I think it demonstrates the importance it is [sic] for the Senate to make sure that we hold the universities accountable."
A similar bill, House Bill 151, has been proposed in the House and is in committee.
The Senate budget also includes Senate Bill 1, the bill to strip power from elected state school board members and give it to the governor. That bill also hasn't passed the House, but a similar bill is listed as one of House Republicans' priorities.
The Republicans' Senate budget expands vouchers so that a family of four earning $135,000 a year would be able to qualify for a full voucher, but allows for families earning more than that the opportunity to get smaller vouchers.
"We want to provide parents throughout the entire state the opportunity to decide for themselves where their child should be educated," Dolan said. "So like the governor, like the House, we've expanded school choice. Unlike them, we have said that that choice belongs to everyone, but not at the same financial level. So we are means-testing school choice so that everybody has a choice, but maybe not at the same financial level."
The Republican Senate budget also expands work requirements to 16- to 59-year-old people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Right now, 18- to 49-year-olds are subject to those requirements for SNAP benefits, or food stamps. And the Senate budget eliminates the expansion of Medicaid to pregnant women and children under 19 up to 300% of the federal poverty level, as well as continuous coverage for newborns.
There are some new changes to the Senate budget, which:
- expands the state's back-to-school tax holiday from a week to two weeks in August
- puts $1 billion toward a "Strategic Community Investments Fund"
- restores housing credits from Gov. Mike DeWine's budget that were cut in the previous version of the Senate budget
- puts $16 million toward the August special election on Issue 1
- lowers the minimum age to become a police officer from 21 to 18
- extends the agreement between the state and its nonprofit job creation company JobsOhio for another 15 years
Senate Democrats submitted more than a hundred amendments to the Republican version of the budget.
There were reports that Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) was negotiating to ensure the Senate's changes in the budget to prevail. But House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said the budget will go to a conference committee.