A few weeks ago, the Ohio Senate began the 133rd General Assembly, the two-year legislative cycle that ends Dec. 31, 2020. I was once again selected by my colleagues to serve as Senate President, the leader of the 33-member chamber.
I have been honored to represent the people of the 22nd Senate District since 2011. Because of legislative term limits, however, this month begins my final two years as a member of the Senate. I plan to make those years as meaningful as possible as I work with my Senate colleagues and Ohio’s new Governor to strengthen the economy, improve our education system and protect our families.
The legislature’s early priorities include the Transportation Budget and the Biennial Operating Budget. Each of these bills must be completed in the first half of 2019. The Transportation Budget funds infrastructure projects throughout the state, including both maintenance and construction for Ohio’s roads, bridges and ports. This is critical to Ohio’s economy, as well as our role nationally. Construction boosts job creation and strengthens the economy. Likewise, having a robust infrastructure network is important for economic development and improves the quality of life for Ohio’s families. Tackling these issues will be among the Senate’s earliest priorities as we plan to have the Transportation Budget completed by the end of March.
No legislation is more important to the operation of state government than the state’s Biennial Operating Budget. This bill, which exceeds $120 billion of spending over two years, funds state agencies, social services and education. It also provides support for local governments in the performance of their duties. The budget inevitably contains substantial policy changes related to state taxing and spending.
During my tenure in the legislature, each budget has been balanced, and each has contained tax relief for Ohioans. In the last budget, for example, the Ohio Senate extended the state’s back-to-school sales tax holiday and provided tax relief for farmers by updating the state formula for taxing agricultural land. We also removed two tax brackets, eliminating state income taxes altogether for the lowest-earning Ohioans. As we consider the Biennial Budget this year, my colleagues and I will look for additional ways to help Ohio families. By the end of June, we will pass a budget that is balanced, responsible, and that invests in the key priorities of Ohioans.
I am proud of the work that we have done during my time in the Senate. We focused on pro-growth policies like tax cuts and regulatory reform, and we have seen Ohio’s economy improve significantly as a result. We cut taxes by more than $5 billion (among the most of any state in the nation) and made key investments in areas like education funding. During that span Ohio employers have added more than 560,000 new jobs.
These are important improvements for Ohio, but the members of Senate will not rest on our laurels. Now is the time to build on this progress and make Ohio even greater. Within the next few weeks, my colleagues and I will introduce our priority legislation and begin holding regular hearings and sessions again. These bills will cover a range of topics important to Ohioans, from fighting the opioid epidemic, to reforming our criminal sentencing laws, to protecting and preserving Lake Erie and our waterways, to cutting unnecessary red tape and regulation that gets in the way of small business growth.
As we begin the 133rd General Assembly, I value your input. I am happy to hear any ideas that you may have about how to improve our state. Please contact my office if you have questions, concerns or ideas about any issue facing Ohio. I can be reached by phone at 614-466-7505 or by e-mail at Obhof@ohiosenate.gov. You may also reach me by mail at Senate President Larry Obhof, 1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor, Columbus, OH 43215.
Larry Obhof is president of the Ohio Senate,