By Joe Uecker
Over the past three years, the state legislature has taken steps to get Ohioans back to work by creating an environment in which new jobs can be created and businesses can expand. Since 2011, we have made significant progress toward that goal with Ohioans having created more than 170,000 new, private sector jobs.
While there is still more work ahead, it is worth reflecting on our state’s great progress. Three short years ago, Ohio faced a projected $8 billion dollar budget shortfall. That fiscal chasm was bridged by our willingness in the Statehouse to make tough choices and recommit our state fiscal discipline. Moreover, I am proud to say that the budget gap was fixed without raising taxes on hard working Ohio families. During this same period, Ohio also implemented the Common Sense Initiative, which streamlined the state’s regulatory process and made it easier for small business start-ups to succeed. We are now seeing the results of those efforts as Ohio’s private sector job growth continues and our state’s business climate improves.
Today, Ohioans are benefitting from a lower personal tax burden and an improved economic climate for small businesses. These reforms, which were implemented in the state budget, form a $2.7 billion tax cut, one of the largest single-year tax cuts in Ohio’s history. This measure includes a 10 percent income tax reduction over three years for all Ohioans, as well as a 50 percent cut for small businesses on their first $250,000 of income. These changes, along with the closure of several tax loopholes, produced a more efficient tax system, capable of attracting and retaining jobs in our state.
In the Senate we understand that our students represent our state’s future work force and that we must help them develop the skills necessary for success. This year’s state budget recognized that fact by investing three quarters of a billion dollars in primary and secondary education, the largest legislative investment in education in more than a decade. Other initiatives, such as increased aid to economically disadvantaged students, greater investment in early learning opportunities, and a more equitable school funding formula highlight the General Assembly’s focus on preparing all of Ohio’s students for long-term success.
Government efficiency remains one of our primary focuses in Columbus and we have implemented several new initiatives to improve how the state operates. Earlier this year the General Assembly passed a plan to modernize Ohio’s Medicaid program. Without reform, Medicaid’s proportion of the state budget would grow from 37 percent in 2003 to more than 50 percent by 2015. The Senate’s reform plan remedies this issue by creating accountability, improving health outcomes, and ensuring the program’s long-term sustainability.
As 2013 comes to a close, Ohio’s taxes are lower, our schools have stronger funding, and the number of employed Ohioans is rising. While there is still more work ahead, we have many reasons to be thankful this holiday season and I believe that our state’s best days are ahead of us. I would like to thank Governor Kasich for collaborating with the General Assembly and I encourage you to remain engaged throughout 2014 as we work to maintain Ohio’s status as the best place to live and raise a family.
Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township) is the state senator serving the 14th District.