It is no secret that Ohio, like many other states, is experiencing tight fiscal times. Over the past year, the amount of tax revenue flowing into the state has been consistently under expectations and estimations. Rather than reacting in panic, it is imperative that we address Ohio’s present revenue situation while also prioritizing our state’s greatest needs. I am happy to have supported the recent passage of House Bill 49, the state operating budget, because it reflects a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility and the ability to face challenges head-on.

Amended Substitute House Bill 49 focuses both on restraining spending and protecting essential services. In light Ohio’s reality, House Bill 49 takes significant steps toward facilitating sound fiscal policies by staying under the rate of inflation for the first time in several years, spending about $2.5 billion less than the executive proposal over the biennium, initiating roughly 1.5 percent cuts across-the-board, and cutting the House administrative budget by 6 percent.

Along with upholding fiscal conservatism, House Bill 49 allocates funding to the areas of greatest need in our state. We can all agree that the opioid epidemic has been devastating our communities for far too long and necessitates real action. To that end, the bill invests $170.6 million towards combating drug abuse and addiction through coordinated care. By prioritizing prevention, treatment, mental health, and workforce reintegration, the budget supports a multifaceted approach to tackling this prevalent issue.

The budget plan also addresses Ohio’s schools and the topic of higher education in meaningful ways. House Bill 49 increases K-12 funding by over $90 million over the biennium, upholds local control by removing the teacher externship requirement in the executive proposal, and requires colleges and universities to study their textbook costs annually in order to lessen the financial burden on students. Additionally, the bill contains provisions regarding many other pertinent issues, including strengthening accountability and transparency in the Medicaid system, simplifying the tax code, modernizing the CAUV (Current Agricultural Use Value) formula, and addressing the state’s rising prison population.

No state budget can be perfect. However, a functional budget must be able to balance finances and take into account the present needs of individuals and communities. I believe that House Bill 49 remains true to these tenets by being fiscally sound while prioritizing Ohio’s most pressing issues, which includes the opioid epidemic and school funding. As the bill goes to the Ohio Senate for further deliberation, my hope is that we can all work together to enact a state operating budget that is balanced, responsible, and responsive to the needs of all Ohioans. Only then can our communities flourish and our state be a place we are proud to call home.

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