COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Money to create a smartphone app, establish a 24-hour hotline and fund other inventive ways to tackle Ohio’s opioid crisis is included in a package of budget revisions majority House Republicans unveiled Tuesday.
Speaker Clifford Rosenberger, Finance Chairman Ryan Smith and others said their version of Ohio’s two-year operating budget adds more than $170 million to address the scourge driven by prescription painkillers and heroin.
Smith said lawmakers prioritized the problem despite a projected $800 million revenue shortfall. He said their budget protects K-12 school funding as much as possible. It rejects the governor’s proposed tax increases and cuts $2.5 billion overall, mostly from Kasich’s proposed Medicaid budget.
Here’s a deeper look at the opiate proposal and other House budget highlights:
PRIORITIZING OPIOID CRISIS
The House’s $170 million infusion includes additional money for existing programs, pilot projects involving nursing homes and drug courts, and new technological ideas, including developing an app to readily connect Ohioans to local resources.
“What we’re trying to do is bring innovation and technology into this fight,” Smith said.
“We want to do things on social media, whether it be Facebook or Snapchat, because obviously different generations operate on different mediums,” he said.
Smith said the goal is to share messages of recovery and information on help that’s available.
The overall program includes money for community coalitions, traditional housing, a nursing home pilot project, drug labs and drug courts and for short-term job certification programs for jobs in demand.
CONTROLLING OVERALL SPENDING
Rosenberger said the House budget increases at a rate less than inflation, even while investing more in opioid programs and slightly more in K-12 education.
“These budget adjustments, I believe, put Ohio in a very strong position in the case of a recession, in the case of anything that should happen,” he said.
Ryan said the House budget reduces the one Kasich introduced in January by $1.5 billion in the first year and about $1 billion in the second year. It imposes a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut for most programs, with some priority areas protected, including elementary and secondary schools.
Kasich’s office praised the effort and said the governor is reviewing the changes.
“Balancing our budget and restraining spending are essential to fostering a jobs-friendly climate and continuing Ohio’s economic recovery,” said spokeswoman Emmalee Kalmbach. “Speaker Rosenberger and his colleagues in the House understand that, and it’s reflected in the ideas they offered today.”
BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS CHANGES
The House plan puts in place an additional check-and-balance on Ohio’s professional boards and commission. It also shrinks the number of boards by consolidating those that deal with aligned issues, such as the panels regulating barbers and cosmetologists, or optometrists and optical dispensers.
State Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, said aside from a handful of executive director jobs, the move isn’t expected to save money as much as provide operating efficiencies.
The procedure to ease antitrust concerns would authorize the Common Sense Initiative, a state office that tests regulations for their friendliest to small business, to review certain board decisions. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that such panels could be violating antitrust laws in a case that had raised concerns about boards led by practicing professionals potentially trying to put competitors out of business through cease-and-desist letters and other actions.