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State budget clears house, moves to senate

By Kolt Buchenroth
The Ohio House of Representatives has placed their seal of approval on their version of the State’s operating budget totaling $69 billion. The bill, which passed 85-9 was massive in size and covers a lot of ground. Several pieces of the bill relate to agriculture.
“We are following some provisions dealing with water taxes, agricultural products, education that are really important under Farm Bureau policy,” said Jenna Beadle, Ohio Farm Bureau director of state policy.
It’s no surprise that the House’s version of the budget relates in large part to water quality and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio Program. The bill’s language says in part that the initiative encourages cooperation among government, business, higher education, agriculture, and conservation organizations.
While Governor DeWine had proposed the program’s funding for the next decade in the budget, the legislature had other plans.
“The House has removed the mechanism for funding H2Ohio on an ongoing basis and has only funded it for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. They have stated that they are going to work on a standalone bill to find permanent funding for H2Ohio moving forward,” Beadle said, also noting the programs new oversight arm. “The House has also created an H2Ohio Advisory Council. It is an 18-member council that would provide some accountability for H2Ohio,” she said.
On the heels of the uncanny vote in Toledo on February 25th known as the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, or LEBOR, the legislature took a stance against the lake’s ability to have standing in court.
“There was also an amendment regarding natural ecosystems. It further clarified current law that nature would not have standing in court to sue,” said Beadle.
According to Beadle, the budget doesn’t lend any favors to small businesses as they could see sharp tax increases. The proposed budget calls for the business income deduction from $250,000 to $100,000. It also eliminates the 3% flat tax rate that follows that $250,000 figure.
“We are still looking into the numbers, but we anticipate that this will affect some of our members, so we have concerns as does the entire business community,” explained Beadle.
Notably not making the budget was Representative Susan Manchester (R-Waynesfield) and Representative John Patterson’s (D-Jefferson) bipartisan new farmer incentive bill. Farm Bureau says they aren’t giving up on it just yet.
“We will continue to work with the Senate to get the beginning farm tax credit amended into the budget. It is not in the House version of the budget,” said Beadle
Taking a step back from agriculture-specific line items and shifting the focus to the other pieces OFBF is watching, The House wants old and unsafe school buses replaced to the tune of $20 million.
“This is going to be very beneficial to rural areas that have busses with high miles on them but don’t have the resources to replace those,” Beadle said.
Another point that Ohio Farm Bureau took from the budget was that of the Ohio Proud program that helps promote Ohio’s agricultural products.
“We have been working to extend the Ohio Proud program to craft beer, cider and spirits, and that language went into the budget. We are excited to see some promotion of agricultural products in the budget,” said Beadle.

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