State senator says state budget is good for Ohio
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 23 July 2013 08:28
For State Senator Randy Gardner, there's a lot for Ohioans to like in the state's biennial budget.
|File photo. Randy Gardner. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The $62 billion budget, covering fiscal years 2014 and 2015, was passed in late June and included more than 3,747 pages.
"The bottom line for me is that anytime you can pass a budget that cuts taxes for citizens and small businesses, provides more support for education, holds down tuition increases, and makes Ohio more receptive to jobs, that's a strong budget," said Gardner, R-Bowling Green, during a recent interview.
"I think that's a fair summary of what this budget does."
Among the highlights, Gardner pointed out that the budget's "tax package is a net reduction of $2.7 billion over three years."
This is accomplished through a 10 percent income tax rate cut across the board, and a 50 percent small business tax cut on the first $250,000 of business income.
"There's debate about how much this tax reform will matter, but I would say that putting $2.7 billion back into the Ohio economy should make a difference."
Gardner also pointed out benefits to education.
In terms of higher education, the budget sets a two percent cap per year for the next three years on tuition increases at state colleges and universities. Over the last five years, he said, Ohio has been second only to Maryland in having the lowest rate of tuition increases in the country.
"We may very well rise to best in the country in holding down tuition increases. In my view, tuition is still too high, state support should be (stronger). But we are making real progress on tuition in Ohio. And I think this budget continues that positive momentum."
For school districts, "there was an 11 percent increase of state aid over the next two years in the aggregate. Some districts got more and some much less," he said. The increase amounts to over $1 billion in new funding.
"I think that's big support for primary and secondary schools."
Gardner noted that over the last eight years, six of Wood County's nine school districts have received double-digit increases over that period from the state, even while experiencing a net loss of students.
Also receiving attention in the budget was the environment. Full funding was granted to the Clean Ohio program, and what Gardner termed one of his "priorities," the Healthy Lake Erie Fund, also got increased support. The fund works to clean up algae problems on the lake.
Ohio's food banks also received record funding from the state, amounting to $14.5 million during 2014 and 2015.
Support was also provided for Ohio State University extension programs.
Other highlights include:
• A $23 million increase in funding for the Local Government Fund, not including Bureau of Worker's Compensation rebates.
• New support for veterans posts.
• Support for for victims of rape, endorsed by the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
"Part of the reason we were able to do this, to have a budget that could do these things, is because our economy has gotten stronger," said Gardner. "It's not anything close to as strong as it needs to be. I'm not satisfied that Ohio's economy is where it needs to be, but it's much better than it was two or three years ago."
In fact, he noted that the state's rainy day fund now stands at $1.48 billion due to the budget. Nearly three years ago, the fund held only 89 cents.