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Week in Review: June 13, 2021

Written on Jun 11, 2021

Provided by Hannah News Service

FY20-21 BUDGET

The Office of Budget and Management Monday released May 2021 preliminary revenue data. Total General Revenue Fund tax receipts finished the month $744.7 million or 34.1% above the budgeted estimate as the state heads into the final month of FY21. FY21 ends on Wednesday, June 30. The state is nearly $1.2 billion over the estimates for the 11 months of FY21, coming in at $1,170,379,000 or 5.2% over estimates for total revenues of $23,787,079,000 through May. As of this time last year, the state had collected a total of $20,395,055,000, a difference of over $3.3 billion.

FY22-23 BUDGET

The Senate Finance Committee made numerous final changes Tuesday to the biennial budget bill, HB110 (Oelslager), via an omnibus amendment and then voted to send the bill to the floor. Among additions in the omnibus amendment were $50 million in federal grants for reduced child care co-pays, $10 million for children services agencies, expanding the pathway out of academic distress for all three districts now under state oversight and providing $125 million in federal funding for afterschool programming. Meanwhile, backers of the House school funding formula again urged adoption of their proposal and raised questions about elements of the Senate plan unveiled last week in a substitute version of HB110.

The Senate passed its version of the biennial operating budget Wednesday on a party-line vote, with much of the lengthy floor debate focused on the chamber's school funding formula as compared to the House plan. The chamber voted 25-8 to approve HB110 with no further changes beyond the omnibus amendment adopted Tuesday, though Democrats sought numerous floor amendments that all fell to tabling motions.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The national unemployment rate dropped 0.3 percentage points in May after national total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 559,000 jobs over the month, rebounding from a weaker April report. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed persons fell by 496,000 to 9.3 million in May. While the measures are down from the highs set early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers remain well above the pre-pandemic levels, when the unemployment rate was 3.5% and the number of unemployed persons was 5.7 million.

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, total employment is predicted to increase at an annual rate of 2.82% for the next six months in Ohio.

For the week ending June 5, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 16,224 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is higher than last week, when the department reported 13,955 new jobless claims. Ohioans filed 198,692 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 23,299 fewer than the previous week, ODJFS said.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

The House Rules and Reference Committee debated what if any limits exist on the chamber's authority to expel a colleague for "disorderly conduct" and distinctions between that process and criminal proceedings, as the House finally brought internal debates on Rep. Larry Householder's (R-Glenford) future out in the open. The committee heard sponsor testimony Thursday on two resolutions -- both introduced this week -- seeking to expel Householder because of his involvement in the 133-HB6 scandal: HR69, sponsored by Reps. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) and Mark Fraizer (R-Newark), and HR70, sponsored by Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma). A further hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, when Householder is invited to appear. House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), who chairs the committee, said the panel will also accept written comments if Householder so chooses. Cupp simply described the process and recognized members for questions during Thursday's two-hour hearing, posing no questions of his own to the resolutions' sponsors. He has repeatedly called for Householder to resign in the past.

The House Thursday refused to agree to Senate changes on two budget bills, sending both to conference committees to work out the differences. Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) urged a non-concurrence on both of the measures he'd sponsored -- HB75 (Oelslager), the workers' compensation budget, and HB110 (Oelslager), the biennial budget. On HB75, he said he appreciated that the changes the Senate made are budget-focused, but said there are provisions that need more discussion, including an amendment he said walks back language recently approved by both chambers and signed by the governor. The House vote was 30 to 59 to not concur.

UTILITIES

The Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel and the Ohio Manufacturers' Association say FirstEnergy's promised refund of $26 million plus interest in "decoupling" charges under 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) is not enough, though OCC and OMA voice separate concerns in filings this week with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. OCC says FirstEnergy's offer to return the $26 million-plus to customers over 12 months rather than in a single bill credit does not satisfy the meaning of "promptly" in 134-HB128 (Hoops-Stein), which reversed HB6 and ordered the decoupling refund.