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The Journal Gazette

Monday, June 12, 2017 12:00 pm

Senate budget closes $1 billion gap

JULIE CARR SMYTH | Associated Press

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Senate Republicans in Ohio said Monday that they've been able to close a projected $1 billion state budget gap while preserving essential services and pumping more money into fighting the opiate crisis.

Senate President Larry Obhof and Finance Chairman Scott Oelslager said most savings were achieved through administrative streamlining and eliminating earmarks.

Of 610 school districts, 535 will see their funding retained or increased under the Senate's plan. Senators deliver cuts of less than 1 percent to most of the remaining districts, many of which are shrinking.

The proposal spends $176 million on fighting the epidemic of addiction and death caused by heroin and prescription painkillers. That's $6 million more than the House plan, with some spending reprioritized.

Among other changes:

* Across-the-board agency cuts averaging 3 percent to 4 percent, for savings of $20 million;

* Additional targeted agency cuts gleaned with help from the administration of Republican Gov. John Kasich, worth $100 million;

* Reduces Medicaid by $200 million while preserving coverages for populations considered most vulnerable.

* Restores money to foodbanks, breast and cervical cancer screening programs, initiatives involving clean water and food safety

* Adds $154 million in state aid for K-12 education next year, then $117 million the year after;

* Maintains increase in funding for early childhood programs and expanded eligibility for low-income families that could extend access to some 3-year-olds.