By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net
Last year, Gov. John Kasich initiated a comprehensive review of state government management, operations and policies in key areas.
Referring to this process as the Mid-Biennium Review (MBR), because it came half-way through Ohio’s two-year budget cycle, Gov. Kasich worked with his cabinet and staff to develop new strategies that improve the management of Ohio’s government agencies and health systems, improve Ohio’s education and workforce development efforts, and improve Ohioans’ access to low-cost, reliable energy.
In addition, the MBR, also referred to as House Bill 487, includes funding for two important farmland preservation aspects of the Clean Ohio program with $6 million to purchase agricultural easements and $36 million to preserve green space.
Ohio, like the nation, is in a less than desirable economic situation, and according to Beth Vanderkooi with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Clean Ohio program was in jeopardy of deep cuts.
“The General Assembly has the authority, under 2008’s Clean Ohio bond, to appropriate up to $100 million to the overall Clean Ohio fund,” Vanderkooi said. “Green space and ag easement purchase are two parts of that fund. Realizing some of the fiscal balance, the entire program was not funded.”
A number of legislators have been champions of the Clean Ohio program and have realized the widespread support it has from Ohioans and the impact that it has had on Ohio’s farm communities. Vanderkooi acknowledged that those legislators have been working with Ohio Farm Bureau to advocate getting some portion of Clean Ohio funding.
“What you see when you look at the additional $6 million and additional $36 million is a total funding of about $48 million, equaling almost half of the total allowable amount under the bond issue,” Vanderkooi said. “This was a way to balance both including the preservation money and also realizing that we are not in a spend and spend and spend economy.”
Ohio’s General Assembly has had a very productive year, passes many pieces of legislation with bi-partisan support. Vanderkooi admits that while the Clean Ohio program does share support from both sides of the isle, any legislation that is budget oriented will see a mostly party line vote. That was indeed the case for House Bill 487.
The bill now moves on to Governor Kasich’s desk and he will begin the process of deciding if he is going to allow all or parts of this legislation to become law.