State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), the lead Democratic member on the House budget committee, voted “no” on the House version of the state budget Tuesday, expressing concern the budget was unbalanced and fiscally irresponsible.

“The state has responsibility to balance the budget and pay its bills, just like the families and people in our community,” said Cera. “Not only is that responsibility important to the economic stability of the working people and families of our state, but it’s required under our constitution. This isn’t Washington.”

In mid-April, Gov. Kasich and GOP legislative leaders announced they would need to cut close to $1 billion from the state budget, House Bill 49, to maintain a stable, balanced budget for 2018 and 2019. Still, Tuesday’s final House version of the state budget fell hundreds of millions of dollars short of being a balanced budget bill by that measure.   

Following Tuesday’s House passage of an unbalanced two-year state budget bill, the Kasich Administration Wednesday released the latest tax revenues for the current fiscal year, showing Ohio’s stumbling economy resulted in a nearly $160 million shortfall for April 2017 alone. Ohio’s fiscal shortfall during the course of one year now climbs to negative $1.057 billion under GOP leadership.

“The problem is, over the last six years, Ohioans were promised tax giveaways for the wealthy paid for by tax hikes on the rest of us would grow our economy and create jobs – but this tax shifting promise just hasn’t come true,” Cera said. “That’s the reasons we’re up against a wall today, people still can’t get ahead. They’re not getting raises. They’re paying more than their fair share in taxes, and life is getting more expensive.”

Ohio’s job growth has trailed the national average for 51 consecutive months, Ohio families bring home thousands of dollars less than the average household in America, and close to 30 percent of Ohio jobs are low wage, paying less than poverty wages.

During the House floor debate Tuesday, Cera lead the push for a bipartisan oversight commission, The Budget Management and Stabilization Commission, to investigate the cause of Ohio’s missing money and to ensure the state budget is structurally balanced and stable. Ohio put a similar commission in place during the global financial crisis of 2009.

Cera also pushed other lawmakers to change Ohio’s outdated severance tax laws, to ensure Eastern Ohio communities recoup their fair share of tax revenue that is generated in their own backyard. The state currently keeps all severance tax dollars from oil and gas exploration, and has used it in the past to pay for income tax giveaways that mostly benefitted millionaires and billionaires.

“If it’s a choice between politicians in Columbus doing the right thing with money, or local communities making those decisions, I think most people would rather see that money and those decisions coming back home,” Cera added.

Cera argued that returning the local tax dollars back to the community could be used to put people back to work with good-paying jobs rebuilding local infrastructure. The Bellaire lawmaker garnered some bipartisan support for a proposal to bring those dollars home, but it was ultimately shot down by Republicans.

The House version of the state budget passed Tuesday with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to vote no and four Democrats joining Republicans to pass the bill 58 to 37.

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