Ohio lawmakers proved last week that reason, negotiation and compromise are possible even during these often ridiculously divisive times.
This is important to recognize as we celebrate today, the 245th year since the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
The state’s two-year budget signed by Gov. Mike DeWine was approved by a bipartisan vote of 84-13 in the Ohio House and 32-1 vote in Ohio Senate.
We are a long way from the times when the budget process was as easy as it was in 2007, when then-Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland’s first two-year budget was passed almost unanimously by a mostly Republican General Assembly.
There was a lot of red meat slung during the six-month budget negotiation season.
Yet, approval went smoother than it did in 2019.
That budget season marked the first time since Strickland’s second budget in 2009 that Ohio lawmakers missed the passage deadline.
Don’t get us wrong, the new 3,000-page budget is far from perfect.
It still includes lumped-in legislation that rightly, and dare we say legally, should have been proposed in their own bills. They have absolutely nothing to do with the budget.
Among them is language that erodes access to abortion clinics and new rules that complicate how kids will receive potentially lifesaving sex education instruction.
The budget includes changes that require abortion clinic doctors to work within 25 miles of the clinic and bar them from teaching at public hospitals or medical schools.
Schools will have to give parents the names of vendors, teachers and curricula used in sex education and notify them if that education goes beyond instruction about abstinence only.
Before parents had to opt their kids out of sex ed. Now they must opt them in.
Then there is a list of head scratchers that includes ending the requirement for phone companies to print telephone books, allowing sacramental wine in correctional facilities and allowing people to drink while playing bingo.
And yet, even lawmakers in the minority party have issues they could get behind.
The biggest involves school funding.
For the next two years, the budget sets a formula that considers local incomes and property values to determine state funding for K-12 public schools.
House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) is not completely happy but says there are things about the budget she supports.
“Ohioans wanted to see an opportunity for Ohio’s future in this budget, and Democrats delivered on the long fight to reform our broken school-funding system,” she said in a statement.
“While this budget delivered for some, others were left behind with a tax giveaway that benefits millionaires and billionaires while working people see very little,” Sykes said. “This budget also saw changes to medical care as we continue to battle a pandemic, cuts to clean water infrastructure, and provisions that undermine the overwhelming majority of Ohioans who wanted fair districts with no strings attached.”
We are pleased the budget cuts income taxes across the board by 3%, and that problematic proposals like the last-minute Senate push to include dangerous changes to Ohio’s food-stamp program were abandoned.
While not abandoned completely, the final version of the budget dials back the attempt to melt the Step Up To Quality program, the state’s rating system for the child-care facilities we help pay for.
The $250 million grant program to install high-speed internet across the state, which DeWine wanted and groups like AARP Ohio support, made it back into the budget, and that’s an important step forward for areas where lack of broadband access is leaving families and businesses behind.
The budget “is a balanced and responsible plan that invests in our schools, our economy and important services for Ohio’s seniors and our most vulnerable citizens, while protecting tax dollars and helping Ohioans keep more of what they earn,” Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said as part of a statement.
We don’t like everything in the budget, but overall, it’s better than we expected after seeing some of the earlier proposals.
One rarely gets everything he or she wants during a negotiation, but there are too many non-negotiables in today’s politics.
Among those being batted around the Statehouse now are the divisive, headline-grabbing “solutions” in search of a problem, such as restricting how students learn about history and racism and attempts to ban transgender athletes from high school competition.
Reasonable compromise works, and it’s something we need our lawmakers to do more often for the good of the state and nation.
— Columbus Dispatch, July 4