Some school districts will get millions of dollars more while others will see an increase of only $55,000 in the $69 billion two-year budget Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled Friday.

DeWine proposes adding $300 million targeted at districts with children living in poverty.

"We know for a fact that poorer kids take more money," he told The Dispatch.

Other than that additional money, every district will get what it received last year: a total of about $16.5 billion.

DeWine said educators have for years cited the need for additional resources to educate at-risk students.

"This targeted money will give all of Ohio children a chance for a brighter future," he said.

"Many of our children are suffering great trauma. Many of our children are suffering from mental health challenges."

Budget Director Kim Murnieks said the $300 million is based on the percentage of students in poverty living in a district, as determined by the U.S. census. The DeWine administration allocates a set amount per low-income pupil, but then multiplies that amount by a district's entire enrollment.

The Ohio House is working on a revamp that likely will be rolled out once its members get the governor's budget.

Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper said, "While there are encouraging aspects of Governor DeWine's budget, especially potential investments in early childhood education and children services programs, we are concerned at the lack of additional revenue to fund these improvements. We need better resources for Ohio students and schools, but not at the expense of other important services for Ohio's families and communities."

The other major takeaways from DeWine's budget plan, which must be approved by the legislature:

• The general-revenue fund increases 3.6 percent in fiscal 2020, which starts June 1, over this year. The jump for fiscal 2021 from 2020 is 4.8 percent. Most of the increase stems from Medicaid — much of which is federally funded.

• No tax increases or cuts.

• Continuation of the Medicaid expansion, although DeWine said Ohio likely will win federal approval soon to implement work requirements to receive the federal-state health-care coverage.

• Continued opposition to legislative Republicans who want to offset DeWine's proposed gas tax increase — contained in the separate transportation budget — with cuts in other taxes.

• No additional money for local governments, save for a substantial increase in state funding to help counties provide adequate defense lawyers for the poor.

• Increasing the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. "We know, statistically, that if we can get someone to 21 and they're not smoking, the odds are very great that they're not going to smoke," DeWine said, noting the health care cost of smoking to Ohio taxpayers is substantial.

"We are taking the long view" in this budget, said DeWine, 72, Ohio's oldest governor. "Now is the time to tackle our unfinished business ... We can lead the nation in creating jobs ... in our workforce ... in our schools ... in the health and well-being of our citizens."

The lack of tax cuts stands in sharp contrast to budgets of the past eight years under Gov. John Kasich.

"We have things we need to invest in," DeWine said. "This is a time to invest in Ohio and invest in Ohioans."

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, former speaker of the House, said earlier budgets contained tax cuts because businesses then pointed to high taxes as their main impediment to competing. But now it's a lack of skilled workforce, so an investment is required.

Murnieks said Ohio's shortage in qualified workers represents the biggest drain on the state economy.

Akron's Emilia Strong Sykes, Democratic leader of the Ohio House, said, “While we are encouraged by the governor’s commitment to supporting Democratic policies of investing in children and families, maintaining access to quality, affordable health care and cleaning up Lake Erie, the devil will be in the details."

DeWine called his budget, dubbed "Investing in Ohio's Future," a "balanced, conservative approach that will continue to yield returns decades into the future."

That means, DeWine said, investing in things that we know work.

"This is a prudent, long-term investment in our future."

DeWine also said the budget contains no projected revenue from a state tax on sports betting, but he anticipates the legislature will implement that in the next two years. The growth in the $68 billion two-year budget is funded entirely by anticipated state revenue increases.

The plan attempts to break down the path for students who want to attend both a career center and college, Husted said.

"We are changing the culture of how we educate and train people in the state of Ohio," he said. "Ohio can be the most creative and innovative state in the Midwest."

State government will use technology to improve many interactions with citizens, Husted said.

Combining state data can help the state predict who is going to become an opioid addict, and bring intervention earlier, he said.

"We will ultimately save taxpayers money when we get better outcomes," Husted said. "This budget meets the challenge of the times."

Husted's task has been coming up with a plan to develop Ohio's workforce. He said some developments are at a standstill because potential employers can't find Ohioans with the right job skills.

The lieutenant governor said the budget takes "an incredibly aggressive approach" to give employers the talented workers they need, and train Ohioans to attain the skills they need for these new jobs.

He wants to create 5,000 new STEM graduates a year — science, technology, engineering and math.

Husted wants to increase by 10,000 a year Ohio high school graduates with industry certificates for cybersecurity and other such in-demand fields.

DeWine also wants every public college and university to enact guaranteed tuition rates, which won't change through students' time in higher education.

On the environment, DeWine proposes $900 million — over 10 years — to clean up Ohio waterways, especially Lake Erie.

Setting aside the money now, instead of using bonds, will save $475 million in future interest payments, he said.

As expected, DeWine is all about "children first" in his budget: combating infant mortality and lead poisoning, and finding homes for foster children.

"We are committed to these kids," DeWine said.

He notes Ohio is dead last nationally in funding children services, so he wants to increase that by 95 percent.

"It's wrong, we are changing that with this budget."

DeWine says the state should invest in a "sustained, multimedia campaign" aimed at keeping young people off drugs, starting in kindergarten.

 

Contact Darrel Rowland at drowland@dispatch.com or @DarrelDRowland