This budget has been a challenge on many levels. State revenue projections over the next two years are lower than expected, and the needs of Ohioans are many. Education at all levels, health care for the needy, a drug epidemic, public safety interests and environmental concerns all call for substantial resources.
But despite this need, our Constitution requires that our State budget be balanced. To achieve a fiscally responsible budget for the next two years, we faced a choice. We had to choose between raising taxes to cover anticipated revenue shortfalls or cutting costs in a responsible, reasonable manner. We chose to cut costs.
We reduced the budgets of virtually every element of State government, cutting the cost of our government by $1.1 billion. Discretionary spending had to be kept to a minimum, and we were forced to find new ways to cut costs
At the same time, we added funding for essential services. The budget provides for added funding to food banks, libraries, pregnancy and cancer screening centers, clean water and food safety programs.
Medicaid expansion survived, but in a year we will close new enrollment for the expansion group (except for those with mental illness or drug addiction) so we can reassess whatever changes come out of Washington. State aid for K-12 education has been increased by $274 million and we added $180 million to the State’s drug prevention, recovery, children’s services and enforcement efforts that now exceed $1 billion.
At the same time, we eliminated the two lowest State income tax brackets, getting our hands out of the pockets of the working poor. No longer will the people who can least afford it be forced to send their hard earned money to Columbus.
Some called for repeal of the tax reforms and relief efforts that we have passed for Ohio families and small businesses. We rejected those efforts because we understand that Ohioans, not the government, know how to best spend their money.
The result these efforts is a fiscally conservative, balanced budget that preserves and enhances our ability to deliver essential services, while using less of your money. The bill now goes to the Governor for his consideration.