Week in Review > Week in Review 3-14-2023Posted by Thomas Perkins on March 14th, 2023
Surplus tax revenue for FY23 now totals nearly three quarters of a billion dollars after another over-estimate month for collections in February, according to preliminary data from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). February tax collections exceeded $2 billion versus expectations of $1.9 billion, an increase of $124.1 million or 6.5 percent over estimates. Sales taxes made up the bulk of the additional revenue, coming in $67.5 million or 7.8 percent ahead of expectations. The non-auto sales tax was up $54.1 million or 7.3 percent compared to the forecast, while the auto sales tax was up $13.3 million or 10.5 percent.
It has now been three years since the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reported three Ohioans tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time, though the ability to conduct testing was limited at that time and community spread was almost certainly occurring. Since then, ODH has reported 3.4 million cases, 138,145 hospitalizations, 15,039 ICU admissions and 41,802 deaths as of Thursday. Ohio’s vaccination rates are 64.8 percent or 7.6 million started and 60.07 percent or 7.02 million completed, along with 3.98 million people who received first boosters and 1.79 million, second booster shots. There have been 1.81 million bivalent vaccinations in Ohio, representing 15.46 percent of the state population.
The Ohio Education Association (OEA), the state’s largest teachers union, recently released a list of legislative priorities for lawmakers to consider as they work on Gov. Mike DeWine’s executive budget proposal. Priority OEA issues for this General Assembly include the following:
– Fully funding the Fair School Funding Plan.
– Alleviating school staffing shortages.
– Ending the expansion of private school voucher programs.
– Repealing mandatory student retention under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
– Supporting student and staff wellbeing.
– Protecting the voice of educators by supporting unions and defending collective bargaining rights.
Proponents of consolidating K-12 governance powers in the executive branch cited policy alignment and a greater focus on career-technical education (CTE) as reasons to make the change in testimony Tuesday to the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee. The committee heard from several proponents for HB12 (Dobos-Jones) which would move most powers of the State Board of Education and state superintendent to a new department of Education and Workforce (DEW), led by a gubernatorial appointee. The similar Senate proposal, SB1 (Reineke), passed the other chamber last week. The committee adopted two amendments at Tuesday’s hearing. One, pulled at last week’s hearing for running afoul of timely filing rules, sets specific qualifications for the proposed deputy director positions established in the bill. The other includes technical corrections identified by the Legislative Service Commission. Both amendments were accepted without objection or discussion. Former Rep. Rick Carfagna, now with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, led off testimony, citing falling student test scores and a workforce shortage as justification for the change.
Youth who are 14- or 15-years-old would be allowed to work until 9 p.m. during the school year under legislation passed by the Senate on Wednesday. The bill, SB30 (Schaffer), passed on a party-line vote of 25-7 as did the companion resolution, SCR2 (Schaffer) which urges Congress to make changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow children under 16 to work between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. during the school year.
SB17 (Wilson) also passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 31-1. It would require the State Board of Education to incorporate free market capitalism concepts into the standards and model curriculum for financial literacy classes in high school. The lone “no” vote came from Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo).
Special scrutiny of the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) found no misdeeds but plenty of room to improve the transparency of operations — problems that played a big role in the complaints that sparked his inquiry, Auditor Keith Faber (R-Celina) told the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) Thursday in reviewing the major conclusions of his special audit of STRS. His audit was launched in part in response to a report commissioned by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA), which has been highly critical of the system and its executive director, William Neville. Faber said while he’s not in the business of setting policy as auditor, the review led him to flag several issues for the General Assembly and the trustee boards of the state pension systems to consider. Among them are whether it’s prudent to pay bonuses to investment staff, something for which STRS routinely draws criticisms. However, he noted, those STRS’ bonuses have been properly paid according to system policy.
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