One of my proudest accomplishments during this General Assembly has been balancing the state budget without raising taxes. This is especially true after facing a deficit of $8 billion because of the irresponsible spending and reliance on one-time money for recurring expenses by previous administrations.

The state operating budget is a massive piece of legislation that requires many months of work as we listen to hundreds of Ohioans testify before we get to a point where members of the House and Senate are supportive of the final package. With reduced spending, a lesser tax burden and streamlined services that were put in place, the budget passed during this General Assembly set our state on the right course.

While the legislature is required to enact a budget every two years, Governor Kasich had the idea to do a mid-biennium review, or an MBR, as a way to make important budgeting changes during the off year. Because the review included so many different topics, we split it up into several issue-specific bills so that Ohioans would have the opportunity to learn more about the policy changes being considered. Just recently, we passed three of those bills.

The first of the bills passed by the House was House Bill 487, a bill focused on streamlining government, reducing spending, and improving the health and safety of our citizens. It contained a variety of adjustments that are important to many Ohio communities.

HB 487 includes improving services for state and local agencies related to the mentally and physically disabled, ensuring funding for health centers in underserved areas, helping with drug addiction and ensuring that criminal sentencing is cost-effective while still maintaining the highest level of public safety. The bill also contains provisions to ensure that the elderly can be cared for at home, the environment will continue to be protected, and tax dollars will be saved by continuing our commitment to shared services.

This commitment to shared services was an aspect put in place to help our state's local governments, knowing that they shared in the sacrifice as we balanced the budget. House Bill 509 was focused on increasing flexibility to local government and it makes important changes to help them function at a lower cost. These include allowing health departments to share or contract with staff outside of their traditional borders. Likewise, auditors can share employees across county lines and act as fiscal agents for other offices with written approval.

House Bill 508 was another of the MBR bills that the House passed, and it deals largely with corrective measures regarding our state's taxes. These changes will eliminate unnecessary provisions so that businesses are better able to comply with what is required of them. In turn, they can devote more resources to making their businesses grow and creating jobs.

All three of these bills passed with bipartisan support. The improvements these bills make are very important to our state, and they truly have a positive effect on the day-to-day lives of our citizens. The actions recently taken by members of the House show a continued commitment to making Ohio better.


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