The Ohio House began its hearings on the state operating budget and state transportation budget this week -- specifically hearing from DeWine administration officials on the governor's proposals. The House Finance Chair, Rep. Jay Edwards, also said he'll be relying heavily upon the Finance Committee's subcommittee chairs for how the budget looks. The operating budget draft -- although not formally introduced as a bill yet -- is now available here. Notably, the budget proposal also includes a statewide ban on flavored tobacco products for youth, which stems from the ban first instituted by the City of Columbus late last year.
Here are other noteworthy items from the week:
DETAILS OF STATE TRANSPORTATION BUDGET PROPOSAL HIGHLIGHTED
ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks laid out details of the governor's state transportation budget proposal to Ohio House members this week. The budget includes a 25-percent increase compared to the current biennium thanks to federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The transportation budget draft -- although not formally introduced yet -- is available here. See more below.
STATE CONTINUES TO EXPERIENCE SURPLUS REVENUE
The Ohio Office of Budget and Management said that, so far this fiscal year, tax collections have reached $16.7 billion. That is $649.9 million, or 4%, more than forecast, with the bulk of it coming from the state income tax. The state expects to have a General Revenue Fund cash balance of about $6 billion at the end of the FY22-23 biennium, some of which is going toward cash spending on capital projects and much of which the governor has proposed for one-time uses in his FY24-25 budget proposal.
OPERATING BUDGET PROPOSAL AIMED AT STRENGTHENING VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENTS
In addition to a myriad of municipal-related provisions from the governor's operating budget proposal that were listed in the Legislative Bulletin last week, several recommendations from the administration's Volunteer Fire Service Task Force Report were included. This includes an increase of about $2 million over the biennium for equipment grants. The budget proposal also includes an extra $600,000 in firefighter grants, along with the same amount to waive State Fire Marshal Academy fees for volunteer firefighters. About $350,000 is earmarked to update and expand the current IT training system. The governor also wants to hire a full-time volunteer coordinator within the State Fire Marshal's Office.
TAKE THE OML SALARY SURVEY
OML conducts a salary survey to share with municipal officials every other year as a useful tool that enables you to see what cities and villages similar to yours are paying their employees. We ask for all municipalities to participate so officials have a better variety of data to study and utilize. Please complete the survey no later than March 31, 2023. OML is also mailing information on this. More Info
SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL FUNDING AVAILABLE
The Ohio Department of Transportation is accepting applications to receive a share of $5 million in funding for infrastructure improvements and initiatives that encourage students to safely bike or walk to school -- including crossing improvements, sidewalks, bike racks, and educational programs. Applications are due March 3. More Info
ADMINISTRATION MOVES TOWARD EXPANDING AMTRAK
The Ohio Rail Development Commission is applying for federal grants to study the expansion of Amtrak passenger rail in Ohio. The routes being studied would include one connecting Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland, as well as one connecting Cleveland, Toledo, and Detroit. No state money is required for the requested grant. More Info
PLAN FINALIZED FOR WATER POLLUTION CONTROL LOAN FUND
The Ohio EPA announced the finalization of its Water Pollution Control Loan Fund 2023 Program Management Plan. The fund provides financial and technical assistance for wastewater infrastructure and restoration projects that improve the quality of Ohio's rivers, streams, lakes, and other water bodies. More than $75 million will be available in 2023 for principal forgiveness, along with $23 million through the Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program and a one-time $8 million allocation for the Gorge Dam (Cuyahoga River) removal project. More Info