After a 17-Day Extension, the Ohio Budget is Finalized
On Wednesday, July 17, the House and the Senate approved the conference committee report on the state budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 and sent it to Governor DeWine for his signature. House Bill 166, the $69 billion, two-year budget includes tax cuts and increased spending on children’s services, education, and public health programs. The bill passed with bipartisan support, clearing the House by a 75-17 vote and the Senate 29-1. Fifteen of 38 House Democrats voted no, and the lone Senate ‘no’ vote came from state Senator Teresa Fedor of Toledo.
Following is a summary of issues we worked on or followed during the budget debate.
Medicaid: The budget included needed state investments for CHIP and the increased state share for the Medicaid expansion. The budget earmarks money for the implementation of the work requirements which are set to go into effect in January 2021. In addition, language requires the director to implement strategies that address social determinants of health including housing, transportation, food, interpersonal safety, toxic stress, and employment.
Lead: The budget included key investments to address lead exposure including:
- $450,000 over the biennium for licensing lead abatement workers and contractors.
- $800,000 to help qualifying property owners with lead abatement and for demolition of lead-blighted properties.
- $27 million in new funding to expand access to developmental and behavioral supports for young children with lead poisoning through Early Intervention.
- $5 million each year for a nonrefundable personal income tax credit to reimburse for lead abatement work. The tax credit is capped at $10,000 per household with income eligibility limits.
- $1 million in each fiscal year is earmarked for the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition
- $150,000 in each fiscal year for lead abatement in Toledo.
Student Wellness and Success Funding: Governor DeWine’s budget proposed $550 million over the biennium for wrap around services in schools. The Ohio House increased the funding by an additional $125 million. While the additional funds were re-purposed in the Ohio Senate, they were ultimately restored in the final budget. These funds are weighted to go to schools with high poverty rates and can be used for mental and physical health, mentoring programs, family engagement, and other student services. The final budget also reinstated a provision that provided an additional payment for schools that received supplemental targeted assistance last fiscal year.
Children’s Services Funding: The budget increased funding by more than $100 million dollars for public children service agencies. The funding will go to increasing base allocation amounts to each county, recruiting and retaining foster parents, strengthening best practices, and working to prevent multi-system youth from entering PSCA custody.
Statewide Treatment and Prevention: The budget includes funding for a Statewide Treatment and Prevention fund at a time where Ohio is experiencing a high number of opiate overdose deaths. Some of the funding increase is to be used to fund K-12 prevention education initiatives as well as statewide multi-media prevention and treatment campaign.
Infant and Maternal Mortality: Additional funding was included for the Commission on Minority Health for expansion of the Pathways HUB model. The Pathways HUB is an evidence-based care coordination model proven to reduce infant mortality rates in their established areas. The budget would allow for the number of hubs to double from six hubs to twelve hubs statewide. The final budget also retains the Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review board and requires the board to submit reports regarding maternal mortality biennially instead of triennially.
Kinship Care: The final budget maintained the Kinship Care Program with an earmark of $15 million each year and established the new Kinship Navigator Program funded at $8.5 million each fiscal year.
Multi-System Youth: The budget contains a requirement for the Ohio Family and Children First Cabinet Council create a multi-system youth action plan to implement recommendations to end forced custody relinquishments. The final budget also appropriates $18 million over the biennium to prevent forced custody relinquishment and help obtain services for multi-system youth.
Ohio Housing Trust Fund: County recording fees will be increased with 50 percent of the new revenue going to affordable housing and homelessness programs. The increase in fees should generate an additional $2.5 million to $3 million a year for OHTF.
Driver’s License Reinstatement: The Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative scheduled to end on July 31, 2019 was extended in the budget until December 31, 2019. However, there will be a short lapse in the program, and it will not be running again until October 18, 2019. When the program starts back up, its provisions will be identical to those of the pilot program.
Nursing Homes: A provision making nursing homes the automatic authorized representative for residents under their care was added in House version of the budget, removed by the Senate, and added back to the final budget that was sent to the Governor. This provision was opposed by OPLC and long-term care advocates. The Governor line-item vetoed this provision, stating that it was a violation of federal law and restricted patient choice.
Legal Services Funding: OLAF advocated for general revenue funding for legal services. The General Assembly approved $500,000 in each year of the biennium: $250,000 to serve veterans and $250,000 to provide legal services for individuals and families affected by substance abuse disorders. In addition, the budget contained language to change OLAF’s name to the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation.
Healthy Ohio and Other Eligibility Restrictions: Sometimes what doesn’t make it in the budget is just as important as to what does. An earlier version of the budget in the House contained language re-introducing the Healthy Ohio program, which would impose premiums and other punitive cost-sharing measures on the Medicaid program. OPLC and other advocacy organizations made the case that the proposal was anything but healthy and the language was quickly removed before a floor vote. Multiple bills were introduced this spring that would impose stricter work requirements and other eligibility restrictions on the SNAP and Medicaid program. Many advocates were worried that some of these proposals would be added into the final budget. However, thanks to consistent pushback from advocates and their legislative allies no eligibility restrictions for social safety net programs were included in the final budget.