CLEVELAND — From broadband to bingo halls serving alcohol, the state of Ohio’s $74 billion biennial budget will affect every Ohioan whether they realize it or not. Gov. Mike DeWine signed the state’s budget bill into law Wednesday evening, which featured investments for nearly all of his key policy and funding policies.
The 2,400-page budget was also the subject of 14 line-item vetoes by Gov. DeWine, including a veto of a Republican-backed provision that would have vacated punishments, fines and restitution for businesses that were found to have violated state health orders.
The provision that was struck down by Gov. DeWine would have expunged those violations and ordered the state to repay any fines collected as a result of the violations, in addition to reinstating the liquor licenses of bars and restaurants that flagrantly and repeatedly went against public health orders.
“The few that had to be cited by our liquor control agents, to say to them there’s no consequences for what you did — that would simply not be right. It would send a horrible, horrible, horrible message,” Gov. DeWine said.
The state’s budget over the next two years also features across-the-board tax cuts for most Ohioans from the super wealthy to those in severe poverty. Most Ohioans will see a 3% reduction in state income taxes. Ohioans earning less than $25,000 per year will not have to pay any income taxes.
The tax cuts come after state budget officials calculated that the state had a $3 billion surplus because of federal COVID-19 relief money. Gov. DeWine said actions taken by his administration in the early days of the pandemic also helped the state improve its financial condition.
“It’s time for us to invest in ourselves, our people and our future. This budget does that,” Gov. DeWine said. “We made the tough choices. Very early on, we cut spending. We froze hiring. We did what we had to do.”
One of Gov. DeWine’s signature agenda items — the expansion of broadband services to unserved or underserved parts of the state — received a full allotment of funding, amounting to $250 million over two years. Previous versions of the budget proposed by the House and Senate did not feature the full $250 million that DeWine requested.
“We made this a key part of our administration early on. We knew from the time that we spent traveling the state, talking to people particularly in rural and low-income, urban neighborhoods, that people didn’t have access to broadband. It is an essential element in living in modern society,” said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. “You can’t participate in the modern economy, education or healthcare system without it. The pandemic highlighted that disparity.”
The voluminous budget bill also contains several oddities, including provisions that permit the sales and consumption of alcohol for bingo players.