Could state revenue projections put budgets out of whack?

Posted Mar. 20, 2019 by

On Friday, Governor DeWine released a state budget that seemed to do little to negatively impact state agencies as it has in past years. OCSEA members remember well the budget cuts of the Kasich administration: Developmental Center closures, prison food service privatization and the shuttering of prisons farms, among them.

At first it seemed like okay news last week. But this week, the Legislative Service Commission (LSC), tasked with drafting fiscal impact studies for the state legislature, is disputing DeWine’s revenue projects and says the governor may be painting too rosy of a picture of the state’s fiscal health. In fact, LSC estimates the state will bring in $700 million less revenue between now and 2021 than what DeWine’s team has projected. That’s about a 25 percent gap in funding.

If that figure holds true, OCSEA activists should be on high alert since it could give the Ohio House and Ohio Senate an excuse to trim agency budgets to close any perceived gap.

On top of these budget discussions, another one is looming regarding Ohio’s gas tax. Ohio, which has the lowest gas tax among the Great Lakes states and has put off any increases for 15 years, has been borrowing against the Turnpike tolls to ensure funding for highway construction. Now the transportation budget hole has reached a staggering $1 billion and ODOT’s Director insists that, without an increase, there will be no new road construction.

DeWine has proposed an .18 cent-per-gallon gas tax hike, the House a .10.7 cent increase, and the Senate is primed to weigh in over the next weeks.

While the Transportation Budget and the General Operating Budget are separate, union activists should pay close attention to both to ensure state agencies are fully funded, and brace themselves for legislators trying to make up any revenue with potential agency cuts that could harm the services our members provide.

The Biennium Budget, as it’s called, will be deliberated in the hearing rooms of the Statehouse over the next months, first by the House and then the Senate, until it eventually must be voted on and passed as a bill by July 1.

Read more about the state budget and what OCSEA activists are closely monitoring, at the links below. State legislature’s state revenue projections lag DeWine administration’s by $500 million

Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Senate GOP still trying to figure out gas tax increase

Columbus Dispatch: Now, you can catch more Ohio House proceedings online

Stream House and Senate LIVE through the Ohio Channel