Ohio House Finance Committee members who are delving into Gov. Mike DeWine’s executive budget already face some potentially strong headwinds.
Legislative Budget Office economists forecast General Revenue Fund tax revenues for the current fiscal year could come in $196.7 million below initial estimates. Economists also project revenues could come in $347.3 million and $160.9 million lower than anticipated over the next two years.
In prepared testimony, Mark Flanders, director of the Legislative Service Commission, cautioned lawmakers “economic forecasts are inevitably uncertain, just like any other attempt to predict the future.”
Despite the potential setback, committee members last week focused on proposed budgets for the state’s education and corrections departments, both of which put the themes of mental health and workforce readiness, centerpieces of DeWine’s budget unveiled last week, at the forefront.
“We all have a lot of work to do in this arena, because we’re spending a lot of money, and I’m not sure we’re getting very good results from our investments,” Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, said during a discussion of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s budget. “But, everybody that walks in that door needs more money, and we’re running out of money.”
Annette Chambers-Smith, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, objected to the notion, citing the state’s recidivism rate, which exceeds the national average.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year is $1.9 billion, a 2.9 percent increase from the current year, and $2 billion for Fiscal Year 2021. It wants increased funding to add mental health and security staff, expand the Ohio Reformatory for Women’s program for newborn babies and establish probation departments in 41 counties.
Meanwhile, the Department of Youth Services is seeking a $238.4 million budget for 2020, a 3.7 percent increase over 2019, and $247.5 million for 2021.
The budget aims to give Ohio’s youth “the opportunity to overcome their challenges by equipping them and their families with what they need to be self-sufficient,” Ryan Gies, the Department of Youth Services’ director, told lawmakers. “Mental health and substance abuse treatment, wraparound services and other family supports are all tools that help youth prepare to become independent, law-abiding adults.”
The Department of Higher Education wants $2.7 billion in 2020, a 3.3 percent increase from the current year, and $2.8 billion in 2021. The Department of Education, which oversees 612 public school districts, 49 joint vocational school districts, 52 educational service centers and 327 community schools, wants $11.7 billion in 2020, a 3.2 percent increase from 2019, and $11.8 billion in 2021.
“Career-based learning is a win-win,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria told lawmakers. “Students win because career-based learning means students are more engaged and, therefore, more likely to reach the significant learning outcomes that will enhance their future success. Businesses also win because more individuals are aware of the great jobs we have here in Ohio and emerge ready to contribute to our economy.”