Updated: (May 5, 2017 from original April 27th post) The House Finance Committee unveiled their budget proposal the last week of April with many improvements over the Governor's original proposal. However, on Monday May 1st, additional amendments were added that weakened the bill.
As people of faith, we value a budget that will help guarantee everyone 'their daily bread'. As Luther describes in his Small Catechism, this means that people should have access to the basic necessities of life. We need a state budget that promotes good health, access to food, a quality education, and safe communities.
The House voted and passed the budget on Tuesday May 2nd, sending it over to the Senate for an additional month of hearings and deliberation.
Here are some highlights in this budget:
Affordable Housing: The new budget proposal will increase the available resources available for homeless and affordable housing programs in all 88 counties through the Ohio Housing Trust Fund. We encourage the Senate to maintain these investments.
Tax Policy: The House stripped all of Governor Kasich's tax shifting proposal. After a decade of tax cuts and sluggish revenues over the past year, we encourage the House and Senate to consider new revenue in order that we can make the needed investments in Ohio. The budget passed by the House probably needs an additional $400 million in revenue or budget cuts. We encourage the Senate to adopt a balanced approach to balancing the budget that includes new revenue.
Addiction Treatment: The House proposes an additional $170 million into a variety of services to address Ohio's devastating opiate epidemic. Money will be invested into treatment, children services, education, and more. We are pleased at this investment into such a serious issue and the 'all hands on deck' approach.
Healthcare: The passed version of the budget continues Medicaid Expansion. However, new proposals for work requirements, fees, and 'guardrails' through the controlling board will create numerous bureaucratic hurdles that will likely cause far too many people to lose healthcare.
Hunger: The House version directs $1 million away from the Ohio Association of Food banks and does not adopt a comprehensive approach to hunger recommendations that would have allocated $5 million of federal funding toward this effort. We encourage the Senate to reverse course and restore and increase funding for hunger relief in Ohio.
Workforce: The proposal includes new resources specifically targeted at low-income Ohioans to receive additional training, but flat funds higher education. A final amendment on Monday did increase funding by a small $3 million for the Ohio College and Opportunity Grant (OCOG) program. Ohio continues to trail the nation in investments into affordable higher education, which is key to training the workforce of tomorrow.