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Ohio's Senators Release Their Version Of State Spending Plan

Lawmakers scrapped Gov. Kasich's proposal that would have given schools less money.
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Ohio Statehouse

The State Senate has released its version of Ohio's budget. The chamber plans to send $71.3 billion over two years, which is about one billion less than both the House and Gov. John Kasich's proposed spending plans. 

Senate President Keith Faber of Celina is happy with his caucus’ proposal – which he says has a smaller bottom line than the previous two budget plans. Tax cuts are the big feature in the proposal.  

“We are continuing today to build on our commitment to fund what matters and return to the taxpayers what’s not essential,” Faber said.

And even though the Senate plan doesn’t include the 23 percent income tax cut proposed by Kasich, it does cut the income tax by 6.3 percent across the board, eliminates taxes for small businesses earning up to $250,000 a year then creates a 3 percent flat tax for other small businesses. The Senate plan doesn’t tax social security income, and doesn’t raise sales or fracking taxes, but smokers would pay an extra 40 cents a pack.

And along with the tax changes, there are other big items of interest. For instance, Senate President Faber says the Senate budget adds $240 million for higher education and $935 million to K-12 education – maintaining in 2016 and 2017 the funding levels districts got in the current 2015 budget.

“There is no red on the whole spreadsheet,” Faber said.

Ohio Senate President Keith Faber says he's happy with his chamber's proposed budget.
Credit Ohio Senate
Ohio Senate
Ohio Senate President Keith Faber says he's happy with his chamber's proposed budget.

The Senate budget also includes some changes for low-income people on Medicaid. It restores benefits for pregnant women in households making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $47,700 for a family of three. And it brings back breast and cervical cancer screenings for women.  But the budget also reduces overall Medicaid spending by more than $1 billion.

There were few details offered on that at the budget unveiling, but some of the savings will come from a requirement that Medicaid recipients contribute to health-care accounts. The Senate plan is scaled back from the House proposal, but Medicaid Committee Chair Dave Burke of Marysville says the idea is appropriate to help people understand real-world expenses as they move off public assistance.

“That is a pathway that needs to be developed long-term,” Burke said. “And if it’s just two dollars or five dollars – it’s the act of actually participating that we’re looking for here, not some kind of fiscal recoupment.”

The Senate budget also includes $10 million for police training programs, $13 million for electronic poll books, and money for a loan program for lake-adjacent businesses facing economic distress, such as those near the troubled dam at Buckeye Lake.