Viewpoint: Working to make Ohio stronger in 2014

Working to Make Ohio Stronger in 2014

Our goal in the Statehouse is to make Ohio the best possible place to live, work, and raise a family and we’ve made a lot of progress toward that goal in 2013. This year, we’ve worked hard to make Ohio more business and job friendly so that our friends and neighbors can get back to work.

One of the most important components to strengthening our economy is to invest in Ohio’s workforce. That is why I introduced Senate Bill 1 to authorize a revolving fund to help Ohioans pay for additional education and job training through the state’s public and private colleges, universities, and career centers. This legislation is one more step in connecting Ohio’s dedicated workers with high-demand jobs right here in our area.

At the Statehouse, we recognize that another important part of growing our workforce is education. This year we invested $173 million in primary and secondary education, the largest legislative investment to education in more than a decade. Similarly, we took steps to strengthen student success at the state’s colleges and universities by redesigning the higher education funding formula to incentivize quality student achievement.

Emphasizing quality outcomes was a legislative theme seen in other components of the state’s largest initiatives this year, especially when considering the modernization of the Ohio Medicaid program. As the largest single piece of the state budget, it is crucial we ensure the continued sustainability of the Medicaid system. Toward that goal, the Senate Medicaid plan has at its center three main pillars: streamlining costs, focusing on patient health outcomes, and creating accountability. This plan is expected to save the state up to $8 billion by 2020.

With this kind of common sense and responsible decision-making, the state passed a balanced biennial budget in June of this year. In fact, Ohio is one of 49 of the 50 states with a balanced budget requirement, and this fall we joined the growing number of states urging the United States Congress to add a federal balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In contrast to the faltering fiscal decisions in Washington, the state of Ohio is working harder than ever to distance ourselves from the $8 billion budget shortfall we faced just three years ago. We were able to eliminate that deficit without raising taxes, and have added a surplus of nearly $1.5 billion in the state’s rainy day fund just this year.

Further, we’ve implemented one of the most comprehensive tax packages in more than a decade, providing tax relief for the lowest-income Ohioans and delivering an individual income tax cut of 10 percent over three years. Virtually every small business will receive a 50 percent tax cut so they can reinvest these dollars into growing their businesses and sustaining jobs – jobs such as the 170,000 private sector jobs we have added since January 2011.

Looking to 2014, my colleagues and I in the Senate are committed to ensuring this is an increasingly upward trend. If you have ideas on how we can continue working to make Ohio stronger, please reach out to my office by calling (614) 466-8076 or emailing me at Balderson@OhioSenate.gov. I look forward to continuing to serve and represent our community in 2014.

Senator Troy Balderson represents the 20th District in the Ohio Senate, which encompasses all or parts of Athens, Fairfield, Guernsey, Hocking, Morgan, Muskingum, and Pickaway. He serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural. Learn more at www.OhioSenate.gov/-Balderson.