Week in Review - 03/08/2019

Week in Review - 03/08/2019

FY18-19 BUDGET

Income tax collections rebounded in February after two laggard months, though the state has some catching up to do to meet targets for the year in that category, according to preliminary figures from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Sales taxes dipped, particularly in the auto sales tax category, but OBM says February is generally a slow month of the year for car sales, and the drop might have been compounded by bad weather. Income tax receipts of $222.5 million were $6.3 million or 2.9 percent above estimates. Receipts for the fiscal year to-date lag projections by 2 percent or $115 million, totaling $5.6 billion versus the $5.72 billion expected. OBM Director Kimberly Murnieks told Hannah News that they're encouraged by the upswing in income tax collections.


FY20-21 BUDGET

State funding for child and family services would nearly double, and state support for county children's services agencies would grow by half, under Gov. Mike DeWine's budget proposal for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). DeWine previewed that part of his executive budget package Thursday at a meeting of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO). His plan promises $74 million more, increasing the current $77 million to $151 million. Included in that is an increase from $60 million to $90 million in the state child protective allocation, the flexible, direct funding source for county children's services agencies. He said the new funding should help address the problems of overwhelming caseloads and caseworker burnout amid a surge in demand for services driven in large part by the opioid epidemic.


CENSUS

The nonprofit Center for Community Solutions (CCS) recently released its Community Fact Sheets for 2019, detailing a variety of statistics for Ohio localities, including figures pertaining to economic success, health, education, housing, and receipt of public benefits. Fact sheets are available for Ohio legislative districts, Ohio federal congressional districts, Ohio counties and large cities in Ohio. All fact sheets are available to download at http://tinyurl.com/y6p54sdw.


EDUCATION

Auditor of State Keith Faber released three audits of charter schools -- two in Toledo and one in the Dayton area -- which called for the return of a total of a little over $2.1 million. Two of the findings were based on inaccurate attendance reporting while the third related to an ethics violation based on improper hiring. The largest finding was against Phoenix Academy in Lucas County which owes the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) roughly $2.1 million for inaccurate attendance reporting.


Business groups are skeptical of a key element in the State Board of Education's proposed graduation overhaul and want a new system in place faster. The board's Graduation Requirements and High School Redesign Task Force met Monday night to review the graduation proposal ahead of the upcoming board meeting, as the group works toward an April 1 deadline to send more details about its plan to lawmakers. The proposal, first endorsed by the board late last year, would supplement existing graduation pathways with a new option through which students would demonstrate their knowledge in five areas: English; math; well-rounded content; technology; and leadership, reasoning, and social-emotional learning. Students could meet the requirement in a given area through the usual state tests, or by other means such as taking a relevant College Credit Plus course or completing a demonstration project, for example.


New bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday would require schools serving middle and high school students to provide free training programs to students and educators on how to identify and handle situations where students may intend to hurt others or themselves, as well as provide reporting methods for such situations. HB123's co-sponsors, Reps. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Glenn Holmes (D-McDonald), provided an overview of their legislation at the Statehouse Wednesday. Manning said it's vital that violence programs in schools reach out to students as well as adult staff and educators.


STATE OF THE STATE

Gov. Mike DeWine brought the "State of the State" back to the Ohio House Chambers on Tuesday, telling Ohio lawmakers that he, along with the General Assembly, is poised to lead a new Ohio renaissance by facing the problems that have been put off for far too long and tackling the state's challenges head-on.


DeWine gave a preview of his executive budget during the 45-minute speech, addressing topics ranging from transportation funding to children's initiatives and water quality.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE

The Ohio House Thursday sent HB62 (Oeslager) on to the Ohio Senate after it dropped the phase-in time of a proposed gas tax increase from three years down to two years, acquiescing to a request by the DeWine administration. Under the amendment adopted on the House floor on a bipartisan vote, the total increase in the gas tax will stay at 10.7 cents per gallon, but it will be increased by 7 cents in the first year and 3.7 cents in the second year. The change does not affect the 20 cents per gallon diesel gas tax increase, which will still be phased in over three years. The bill still adds $872 million/year for transportation projects when fully phased in -- but short of the $1.2 billion Gov. Mike DeWine sought. The bill passed the House 71-27. It now officially goes to the Senate, which has been holding informal hearings on the proposal up until now.