As the leader of the Ohio Senate, it is an honor to serve you. As we finish out 2019 and prepare for the new year, I would like to take this opportunity to update you on the work that we have done in the Senate over the past twelve months. I am proud of what my Senate colleagues and I have accomplished across a wide range of issues, from strengthening our economy to protecting our communities to preserving Lake Erie and our other waterways.
When the Senate kicked off the current two-year legislative cycle in January, our majority members announced our priority legislation. These bills weren’t just window dressing. They dealt with complex, difficult issues that will be transformative for the State of Ohio. Among them were proposals to strengthen our economy by getting rid of unnecessary red tape and regulation; protect our environment and Ohio’s water quality; invest in education and new school construction; crack down on predators and human traffickers; and streamline government and lower Ohioans’ tax burdens.
This wasn’t empty rhetoric. Members of the Senate worked throughout 2019 to keep our commitments to the people we represent. We passed nearly all of our priority bills in 2019. The Governor has already signed many of them into law, either as stand-alone legislation or as part of the state’s biennial budget.
Perhaps most importantly, the Senate led the charge to pass a biennial operating budget that is balanced, conservative and fiscally responsible. We built on a strong proposal by Governor Mike DeWine, which increased funding for important social services and made investments in Ohio’s future that will pay off for our citizens over the next ten years. The Senate put its stamp on the budget, increasing funding for local governments and libraries; providing record public support for higher education; and fully funding Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio program to protect Lake Erie.
The final budget bill enacted many of the Senate’s priorities. These included, among others, major regulatory reforms, increased funding for school construction, and tax policies that incentivize investment in economically-disadvantaged areas (known as Opportunity Zones). I fought hard, often against leaders from my own political party, to ensure that the bill provided tax relief to the hard working men and women of Ohio. The final version of the budget included $700 million in income tax cuts. That included a 4% across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans. For the second budget in a row, we eliminated Ohio’s two lowest income tax brackets, providing a 100 percent income tax cut to the working poor.
I am proud of the fact that the Senate passed the budget with a vote of 33-0. Politics in Washington are broken and are seemingly more partisan than ever. In the Ohio Senate, however, we worked together across party lines to pass do what we thought was right for the people of Ohio.
The budget was the most important bill, but was certainly not the only significant one that we passed. The Senate created a Cyber Reserve force to help protect local governments and our elections system from cyber attacks and ransom ware. We passed several key bills to increase opportunities for workforce training. We improved ride safety at fairs and amusement parks. We passed strong new legislation to crack down on human trafficking—a bill initially suggested to me by constituents serving in law enforcement. We asked Congress to pass the USMCA trade agreement and encouraged the federal government to label certain drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. The Senate finished out the year by providing tax relief to disabled veterans.
As we enter 2020, I look forward to doing even more to make Ohio as great as it can be. I will continue to make your priorities my priorities. I hope to hear your ideas about how to improve our state. If you have questions, concerns, or ideas about any issue facing Ohio, you can reach me at [email protected] or by calling me at 614-466-7505. You may also reach me by mail at State Senator Larry Obhof, 1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor, Columbus, OH 43215
Sen. Obhof represents the 22nd Ohio Senate District, which encompasses all of Medina, Ashland and Richland counties as well as portions of Holmes county. He currently serves as President of the Ohio Senate. For more information, please visit www.ohiosenate.gov/obhof.