Ohio Senate passes $94B budget focusing on tax cuts and overhauling education
COLUMBUS, Ohio — JUNE 15: State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Lima, speaks during the Ohio Senate session, June 15, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)
The Ohio Senate passed a $94 billion budget Thursday, one that provides significant tax cuts for businesses those in the highest income brackets, and overhauls the higher education system.
This budget has one of the largest tax cuts in Ohio history, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said.
“This is a solid conservative budget,” Huffman said.
The budget consolidates the tax brackets from four to just two, combining the two lower and the two upper. Like the House version, any income below $26,050 is not subject to tax, and income beyond that mark faces a 2.75% rate. But unlike the House proposal, which levies slightly higher rates at about $92,000 and $115,000, the Senate has just one other 3.5% bracket starting at $92,150.
Senate Minority leader Nickie Antonio explains that this only impacts the wealthy. People at the top end of each bracket will pay the same amount proportionally as the person at the bottom end.
“The upper levels are really getting the best benefit proportionate to their incomes of tax savings,” she said.
The lawmakers also expanded the sales tax holiday. Instead of restricting the tax break to school supplies, the Senate wants to apply it to almost any tangible goods with price tags up to $500. The tax holiday would likely extend for 14 days, and the lawmakers included language to have additional holidays in the future.
In addition, the Senate will reduce the Commercial Activity Tax by 25% over two years. This could save $700 million for businesses, according to group Americans for Prosperity.
All of those tax cuts amount to $2.5 billion.
But along with the tax cuts for businesses are cuts for social programs.
Antonio explained that the senate cut funding for a new affordable housing tax credit and food bank funding. Also, the budget reduces eligibility for publicly funded childcare.
“Business interest is there. Wealthy and well-connected is there. But what about everyday Ohioans?” she asked. “What about hardworking people and their families and poor people and people who absolutely need the services?”
Huffman argued that not everything is a cut to social services, just cuts from the House’s bipartisan budget to the Senate’s conservative one.
“The governor says we’re going to fund here and the House says we’re going to fund here and we say fund here,” Huffman said, demonstrating the levels of money with the height of his hands. “It’s an increase, it may be less than what the House suggested, but more than what the governor said.”
Perhaps the most notable change in education policy is an expansion of the state’s school voucher program.
The bill makes private school vouchers universal. This means that any family, regardless of income level, can apply for state funding to send their kid to a private or charter school.
The current cutoff is $75,000 per year for a family of four. This gets bumped up to $135,000 for the same family. Families making more can still get a voucher, but they would only get a partial scholarship.
The Senate also slid in the controversial higher education overhaul bill into the budget.
Senate Bill 83 focuses on what GOP calls “free speech,” banning public universities in Ohio from having “bias” in the classroom and limiting what “controversial topics” can and can’t be taught.
Click here to read more details about the bill.
Senate Bill 117 was also included in the bill. S.B. 117 would create learning centers on OSU and University of Toledo campuses, meant to specifically target “intellectual diversity.”
Not just an overhaul to higher education, the Senate also brought in the state board of education overhaul bill. That proposal, Senate Bill 1, takes significant powers away from the board and hands them to a renamed Education and Workforce department in the governor’s cabinet.
The Senate also killed a provision in the budget the Ohio House put in that would make school meals free for those whose household income qualified them for free or reduced meals.
What is next?
This budget is not final. The House will need to vote to concur with it or head into conference committee, which will likely happen.
The House’s budget was much more bipartisan.
Megan Henry contributed to this article.
This article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
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