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Ohio budget now in the hands of DeWine

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(The Center Square) – Lawmakers and other groups continue to wait as Gov. Mike DeWine has until Friday to sign the state’s new budget.

The General Assembly, on Republican party-line votes in both the House and Senate, sent the proposed budget to DeWine late Friday night after a compromise that includes universal school choice, tax cuts and a flatter tax rate, an increase in sports betting taxes, and funding for public education.

“I’ve said it time and again, Ohio is our home, and we have worked hard to pass this budget that’s going to help everyday Ohioans,” said House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill. “We’ve lowered, flattened and permanently cut income taxes, made historic investments in education funding and school choice, preparing our workforce, and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. This budget will have a lasting impact on Ohio for years to come.”

Despite calling the conference committee budget an improvement over the previously passed Senate budget, Democrats want DeWine to use his line-item veto to eliminate several provisions, including universal school choice, a nearly $1 billion cut in Medicaid spending, and tax cuts they say benefit only the wealthy in the state.

“It is the responsibility of the Ohio General Assembly to create a fair and transparent budget that works for all Ohioans,” said Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Cleveland. “We had a chance to pursue a bipartisan budget in conference committee, but instead, we have proposed a partisan budget that fails to prioritize the needs of all Ohioans. This budget puts Ohio on a path that will leave behind those who are struggling the most to get ahead.”

The compromise kept a $3 billion tax cut and established two tax rates in the state – 2.75% for those making between $26,050 and $99,999 and 3.5% for those making more than $100,000.

It also adjusted the Commercial Activity Tax so businesses will pay no taxes on the first $3 million of gross receipts in the budget’s first year and none on the first $6 million in the second year.

Going up would be taxes paid by sports betting operations from 10% to 20%, which former State Rep. Dan Dodd said could eliminate mobile sports operations and cost the state money.

“At a 20% tax rate and in current environment, it’s not hyperbole to predict Ohio will have 10 or fewer mobile operators offering bets in 12-18 months. State will also lose over $10m in license fees (unless proprietors pay for license themselves hoping to get a new operator),” Dodd tweeted.

The budget would fund public schools at $9.6 billion in fiscal year 2024 and $9.9 billion in fiscal year 25 and make the Ed Choice Scholarship available to every student on a sliding income scale.

Families who earn 450% of the federal poverty level – $135,000 for a family of four – would qualify for a full school choice scholarship. Families above that threshold will be means-tested with scholarships adjusted based on income. Every student in Ohio would be eligible for at least 10% of the maximum scholarship.

“Parents know that where their children attend school makes a difference,” said Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima. “Children should never dread going to class, and parents should always have confidence that their children are walking into a positive, results focused learning environment.”

The budget also includes several non-fiscal related provisions, including removing the power from the state board of education and giving the governor and General Assembly control. It also includes Senate Bill 117, which would create centers for intellectual diversity at five state universities and ensure free speech is available on all campuses.

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