(Photo by Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Getty Images).
The leader of the Ohio Senate says he has come around on the issue of broadband internet spending, telling reporters Wednesday he is optimistic that lawmakers can come to an agreement on investing in this public need.
Leaders from the Ohio Senate and Ohio House of Representatives are currently negotiating a two-year state budget that needs to be approved by the end of June. Among the items being worked out is grant funding for broadband expansion projects that would bring reliable internet to underserved areas of Ohio.
Gov. Mike DeWine is supportive of the spending and the House budget version allocated $190 million for these projects.
But the Senate version removed the funding as one means of paying for a proposed 5% income tax cut. Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, initially said he was skeptical about spending large amounts of project money “without a plan” and questioned if the increased access to the internet would do any good to Ohioans who are not tech savvy.
Huffman said on Wednesday he had since learned more about the spending proposal and now feels “comfortable” the money would benefit Ohio residents that need it.
“I don’t think that was clear when we started (budget talks) in February, but it’s clear to me now,” he said.
Asked about the overall status of the ongoing budget negotiations, Huffman said there has been “substantial progress” in recent days. The two chambers are supposed to send a budget bill to DeWine’s desk for a signature by June 30, ahead of the new fiscal year beginning July 1.
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