At last, bipartisan work forges credible state budget in the Ohio House


Canton Repository: Bipartisan votes in the General Assembly too often in recent years have been limited to superficial issues or generic proclamations that made little difference in the daily lives of Ohio residents.

Rare have been the times when Republicans and Democrats came together to forge a true partnership on “real” issues, particularly related to shaping the state budget.

Majority Republicans could, and sometimes would, run roughshod over Democrats’ proposals and amendments, knowing they had the votes to do pretty much anything party purists wanted.

Because the Republicans’ position of strength remains, it is noteworthy and laudable that the Ohio House of Representatives last week passed its version of the state budget on a vote of 85-9 after it passed unanimously from the House Finance Committee under the leadership of its chairman, Rep. Scott Oelslager of North Canton.

We celebrate House lawmakers’ ability to work together, even if there are certain elements of the budget itself we’d like to see modified or eliminated altogether as it makes its way through the Senate, then a conference committee, and eventually to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature by the end of June.

HIGHLIGHTS OF HOUSE BUDGET

Among the House budget’s highlights:

Tax cuts are focused on lower-income Ohioans.

Significant increases in funding have been allotted to education spending.

More dollars have been set aside for other early childhood initiatives.

Funding is budgeted to expand the fight against opioid addiction.

The increased education funding is directed at districts with higher poverty rates to help them pay for such services as mental health counseling and after-school programs. We’ll be hearing more about these “wraparound services” in coming weeks.

House lawmakers propose doubling DeWine’s request for funds aimed at the state’s foster care and child protective services programs and would add $2 million for domestic-violence counseling and $8.9 million for rape crisis centers. Each idea is praiseworthy.

This budget also includes changes in state laws related to the purchase of tobacco products and to the way the state issues “grades” on its public school report cards. (More on this dubious measure another day.)

DEMocrats’ IDEAS ACCEPTED

House Democrats came on board when some of their priorities were addressed, such as closing tax loopholes for higher-income Ohioans, making college more affordable for low-income students by increasing funding for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant and increasing, by $32 million, money for home health visitations to help combat infant mortality.

Yes, there is a lot to like about the House budget. We eagerly await action in the Senate – to see what survives, what is changed (hopefully, of course, for the better) and whether Republicans and Democrats in that chamber will work together in as broad a manner.

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