Ohio's April tax revenues blew by estimates for the month by 20 percent or nearly $414.2 million for the month as a whole, and were nearly 40 percent over estimates for the personal income tax alone, according to preliminary figures released Thursday by the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). The jump gives credence to OBM's argument that substantial dips in income tax collections a few months ago were likely a timing issue related to the new federal tax law. Ohio is now 3.0 percent or a half billion dollars over estimates for this fiscal year. A total of $19.1 billion has been collected; nearly $18.6 billion had been estimated for the first 10 months of FY19.
A final round of amendments to the budget bill brought strong, bipartisan support for HB166 in the House, as it cleared the House Finance Committee unanimously Wednesday and passed 85-9 on the floor Thursday. A potential roadblock to that bipartisan support, Rep. Jim Butler's (R-Dayton) Healthy Ohio Medicaid initiative, was removed at the last minute during floor debate. Final changes further reined in Ohio's small business tax deduction for pass-through entities, in order to finance across the board income tax rate cuts of 6.6 percent. Previous changes had already lowered the deduction threshold while eliminating Ohio's bottom two income tax brackets, meaning no income tax will be paid on a filer's first $22,250 of earnings. Following through on intentions announced last week, the House also included the language of HB154, proposing to dissolve the academic distress commissions now overseeing three Ohio school districts and establishing a new school turnaround model focused on buildings rather than entire districts.
Proponents of the Cupp-Patterson "Fair School Funding Plan" told the House Finance Committee May 3 that the most recent revisions to the school funding formula overhaul address issues that were encountered in high poverty districts. When an initial simulation of the funding plan was released, critics said some high poverty districts received nominal funding increases, while wealthier districts received substantial funding increases. Proponents said those issues have been addressed.
Superintendent Paolo DeMaria appeared before the Senate Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee Tuesday to field questions from senators on funding proposals for traditional and charter schools, as well as on issues related to the school report card system, academic distress commissions, and more.
Ohio has a slightly larger pool of eligible sponsors and a new award category as it starts a third annual round of charter school grants. Hampered at launch by scandal and thus far constrained in its reach by a limited field of qualifying schools, the federally funded grant program has used only about 5 percent of available funding in the first two cycles, around $2 million of $49 million available. The grant program is to last five years total. The FY20 grant round will bring new eligible spending categories, thanks to flexibility offered under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Ohio Department of Education's (ODE) acceptance of corrective action plans for sponsors that don't meet eligibility criteria outright will bring the total number of nonprofit oversight agencies with which schools can partner to eight, up from six in the FY19 round.
States are using a variety of strategies, tools, services, and approaches to tackle the difficult issues around school safety and violence prevention. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has released a summary of some of these practices. Steps states have taken to address school safety generally fall into the areas of threat assessment, infrastructure and technology, coordination of mental and behavioral health services, and school climate practices.
The Senate unanimously passed SB26 (Kunze), authorizing a state income tax deduction for teachers' out pocket expenses for professional development and classroom supplies. In other action, the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out SB4 (Rulli-Kunze), which deals with school facilities assistance.
Ohio's congressional maps created under 129-HB369 (M. Huffman) in 2011 are "an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander," a three-judge U.S. District Court panel ruled Friday in a decision requiring the maps be redrawn by Friday, June 14. If state officials do not develop an acceptable plan, the decision said, the court may take action to have districts re-drawn by a special master. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost appealed the decision, seeking a stay, according to a statement in which he called the decision "a fundamentally political act that has no basis whatsoever in the Constitution." However, the judges later in the week denied the state's request for stay. Yost has also filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.