The Medina Post

Throughout my many years as a legislator, I can say with certainty that the Ohio General Assembly has never faced a budget as challenging as this year's. Just like in Washington, if you increase spending, raise taxes, and irresponsibly spend billions of dollars in one-time resources, structural problems are going to occur. That's why the Ohio House Republicans made it a priority to fix the huge budget gap we inherited by finding innovative solutions that will lead to long-term stability for Ohio.

You might ask how we have fought to put Ohio on the right financial footing. Essentially, we worked very hard to get us out of the mess that was caused two years ago. We re-examined the size and scope of state government, we spent responsibly, and we did so without raising taxes on any Ohioan. We simply cannot afford to pay the government any more money.

But there's much more to the state operating budget than the nearly 5,000 pages of black ink and dollar signs it contains - this bill affects our everyday lives. For this reason, it's important that legislators like me hear from a variety of Ohioans, hold many meetings and work a lot of long nights. We've made a conscious effort to ensure that this budget gets people back to work, attracts them to Ohio and helps them attain the knowledge they'll need to be successful.

Perhaps nothing affects the future stability of a state as much as the education of its young people. With so many troubled school districts in Ohio, maintaining our commitment to a quality education is vital. This includes having a significant expansion of options for parents regarding which schools their children can attend. While there are many parties that have a preference one way or another as far as what language the budget includes on a topic such as charter schools, the sole authority for what goes in the bill lies with the legislators who carefully ponder what is beneficial for Ohio's students. Additionally, the General Assembly has been able to gradually increase funding for the many schools we have throughout the state in each revised version of the budget legislation.

At a time when Ohioans are struggling to make ends meet, it's necessary to make sure that more Ohioans have access to our state's higher education institutions as well. For this reason, we have fought to keep tuition down at a more affordable level by capping the annual increases at 3.5 percent. Additionally, we included a provision so that our state's high school graduates who leave Ohio can return within a set time frame in order to receive in-state tuition. Investing in higher education is crucial, and that is much of the reason why the House budget proposal has had the support of The Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee.

It's my hope that those who are educated here will stick around, raise their families within our borders and contribute to our economy. That's much of the reason why we've aimed to attract more people to Ohio through such actions as eliminating the state's death tax starting in 2013. With an unfair and unnecessary tax such as this, Ohioans flee to other states to retire, farm and to build their businesses without the hindrance of the state taking more from them. Of the 17 states that have a death tax, Ohio's starts at the lowest threshold of any state in the entire nation ($338,333) and takes a direct aim at small business owners and farmers, among others.

When businesses come to Ohio, that means there are more jobs for families like yours and mine. It's important for us to demonstrate that our state is an attractive place for businesses to grow and prosper - just like it is for its citizens to do. My hope is that, if you can take away anything from this General Assembly's budget, you realize it is one that focuses on getting our house in order and providing a brighter future for all Ohioans.


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