Ohio’s next operating budget is now law. The $50.5 billion, two-year spending plan was filled with what lawmakers and Gov. Ted Strickland agreed were tough choices. Given lagging state revenues, they said they did what they could to preserve the state’s safety net of social programs.
Many agencies and programs received cuts to account for a drastic decrease in tax revenue, while some others actually saw increases — largely because of a heavy infusion of federal money.
What to expect if you …
- Own a business: There are multiple tax credits at your disposal, including film tax credits totaling $10 million in the first year of the budget and $20 million in the second, technology investment credits totaling $45 million and job creation and retention credits that will be capped at $13 million.
- Are a college student: You may see your tuition go up for the first time in three years, as state higher education funds were cut by nearly $460 million. The state cut its direct aid to public colleges and universities by $170 million, erasing its ability to maintain a tuition freeze for a third year.
- Are a college student who stays in Ohio: You may have an opportunity in which the state gives you money toward the down payment on your first home.
- Are a public school student: Unless you are in a handful of Ohio’s 600-plus school districts, your district will get an increase in funding — thanks to an infusion of federal dollars. If you are a kindergartner, you will have an opportunity to go to all-day kindergarten in every district. But districts that charge will be able to do so for two more years. If you are a high school student, you will be taking the ACT even if you aren’t planning to apply to college.
- Pay property taxes: The share of school funding coming from property taxes will decrease starting in 2010 and then twice again over the next six years.
- Get food from a food pantry: Food banks were one of the few programs with a significant increase, but there is no guarantee there will be enough food to go around. The budget gives a total of $24 million to food banks over two years — a $7 million increase from previous years. But food banks are experiencing surging demand because of the recession.
- Have no health insurance: You may be in luck, depending on how old you are and how much you can afford to pay for insurance on a monthly basis. Policies in the budget to expand health insurance are expected to cover about 100,000 people who don’t have insurance. If you have a pre-existing condition and are looking for insurance during the open enrollment period, you can probably get care if you can afford to pay about $400 a month. A policy that caps rates during open enrollment will cut the average amount paid by those with preexisting conditions in half. This policy will be fully effective by 2012. If you are under the age of 29 and your parents have employer health insurance, that policy will be required to cover you as well. Currently, it only has to do so until age 24. This will take effect with policies that renew beginning July 1, 2010.
If you work for a company that doesn’t provide health insurance, you will be able to use a pretax account to buy insurance, which could lower your bill by 40 percent. This will start with larger companies and be fully implemented by 2012.
- Visit your local public library: You avoided a 50 percent cut in funding from the roughly $450 million that libraries currently get. But libraries were still cut by $84 million, so many residents may see reduced hours and staffing at their local branches.
- Receive mental health services: The state agency that provides funding for local mental health agencies received a $190 million hit compared to the last-two year budget. Services not covered by Medicaid will be the most affected, because there is no matching money from the federal government. Those services include housing and peer services, in which patients get counseling in areas such as looking for a job.
- Receive home-based care for the elderly: A $68 million, or 20 percent, reduction in funding in the budget for the Department of Aging will mean that not everyone requesting home-based care will receive it. The three programs that provide home-based care served an average of 904 people a month in the fiscal year that ended in June. The next budget will only be able to afford having an estimated 680 people enrolled.