Friday, May 6, 2011

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Beck Announces Passage of Fiscally Responsible Biennial Budget
HB 153 closes $8 billion deficit without raising taxes; focuses on jobs, education and economic recovery

COLUMBUS—State Representative Peter Beck (R-Mason) has announced that after several weeks of debate and discussion, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a fiscally balanced budget bill that reduces government spending, avoids tax increases, and invests in Ohio’s immediate and long-term future.

House Bill 153—the product of 57 committee hearings, 811 witnesses and nearly 200 hours of testimony—maintains a commitment to Ohio’s job climate and fiscal sustainability. It successfully makes significant reductions in the size of state government and closes the $8 billion budget gap.

“I am pleased to see the Ohio House of Representatives pass a fiscally sound budget bill that will aid Ohioans in the present as well as in the future,” stated Rep. Beck. “The House of Representatives budget proposal adds approximately $50 million for local governments on top of the proposed executive budget, which includes a new trust fund to help obtain savings through shared services. It is important make sure Ohioans’ tax dollars are utilized in the best way while maintaining vital services and jobs in Ohio.”

Among the priorities of the budget is a focus on Ohio’s economy and job market. In addition to including a measure to incentivize educated individuals to relocate to Ohio to pursue a college degree, House Bill 153 also eliminates the death tax effective January 1, 2013 to support small business owners, homeowners, farmers, retirees and entrepreneurs. It also solidifies the proposal to transfer the wholesale liquor enterprise to JobsOhio by clearly delineating the division of responsibility between the Department of Commerce licensing and merchandising functions.

“As a small business owner myself, I think it is vital to the state of Ohio to promote small business growth and make Ohio a more attractive state in this competitive job market,” stated Rep. Beck. “House Bill 153 is a fiscally responsible budget that will help keep Ohioans in Ohio and allow them to take advantage of what our state has to offer even into their retirement years. This bill does not raise taxes for Ohioans and also eliminates Ohio’s estate tax.”

To bolster Ohio’s education system, the House Republicans made a concerted effort to trim spending from other areas of the budget to ensure more funding for education. House Bill 153 invests an additional $40 million per year to the school foundation formula and guarantees that no district will receive a cut in state aid of more than 20 percent. It expands school choice opportunities for students in underperforming schools by increasing the value of the Cleveland Voucher Program to the same level available under the EdChoice Scholarship Program, increasing the EdChoice program to 60,000 vouchers in FY 2013 and raising the charter school sponsorship cap. It also boosts funding for parochial schools by $5 million, restoring dollars that were unfairly cut in the previous Democrat-enacted budget.

House Bill 153 also provides much-needed transparency for parents and taxpayers by requiring the Ohio Department of Education to report annually to each district its ratio of administrative vs. instructional spending, its per-pupil amount for each purpose and its percentage of funds for operating. “This measure comes at a time when school districts continue to seek increased property tax levies from local taxpayers,” Amstutz said. “My colleagues and I believe that parents and taxpayers deserve to know what their school district is spending on their children’s education before they vote on a levy ballot issue.”

The budget strengthens higher education in Ohio by capping annual tuition increases at 3.5 percent and expanding eligibility for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant. Furthermore, it prompts construction reform to help universities put more money in the classroom and moves Ohio into the digital age by creating a pilot program that utilizes digital textbooks.

It also protects Ohio’s seniors by increasing funding for home care by $15 million over the biennium and offers incentives for local governments to deliver services at a local cost through shared services. Additionally, it ensures that local governments receive either their FY 2011 local government fund allocation or at least $500,000.

“House Bill 153 also ensures the care of our elderly, by making sure they receive the best and most appropriate care,” stated Rep. Beck. “Our budget maintains current funding for nursing homes and also increases funding by $15 million to allow those Ohioans with special care needs to remain in their homes. It is important that the elderly of Ohio are served with the best care possible, whether that is at home care, nursing home, or assisted living care.”

House Bill 153 passed from the House by a vote of 59-40 and will now move to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

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