Pat Tiberi: Lima’s Legislative Leaders Renew Age of Collaboration at the Statehouse

The following editorial was published in the Lima News.

I do not recall a time in history where the House speakership and Senate presidency were held by legislators from the same county, let alone the same city.

That became a reality when Speaker Bob Cupp and President Matt Huffman took the helm in their respective chambers at the onset of 2021. That transition was huge for Lima, but it has proven to be a win for the entire state.

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With 2020 being an undoubtedly difficult year battling a global pandemic, and an added cloud of corruption looming over the Statehouse, bitter politics challenged the age of civility where the House and Senate were not able to foster a constructive dialogue for the sake of moving Ohio forward. But Speaker Cupp and President Huffman changed that.

With the passage this week of the $74 billion, two-year state budget, all Ohioans will benefit because of the strong leadership of the two Allen Countians. Governments express their priorities through their spending decisions. The new budget that Cupp and Huffman shepherded contains milestone provisions addressing long-term Ohio problems. These include a massive restructuring of school funding, development of broadband infrastructure essential to Ohio’s future, a tax change making it easier for businesses to hire employees, and an across-the-board 3 percent income tax cut for Ohio’s hard-working men and women.

A highly anticipated provision in the budget was a revision of the K-12 school funding formula — a formula that was declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1997. Yet legislators have continuously kicked the can down the road since that court decision without making any substantive changes.

Bob Cupp agreed to take on the challenge.

He worked with stakeholders for years to flesh out a plan that would establish a more evenhanded approach to funding our schools. The plan bases the funding on the cost to educate a child in each district, rather than the current formula which uses a statewide average. The plan has been one of the more meticulously debated topics through this process. The final product agreed upon by both chambers enacts Speaker Cupp’s Fair School Funding Plan for the next two fiscal years, leaving opportunity to address the long-term viability of the formula.

Broadband deployment is a much newer problem.

The virtual world is imperative for so many aspects of our daily lives — jobs, education, healthcare — and a family’s geographic location should not be a hinderance to their ability to prosper. A conservative determined to get full benefit from every public dollar, President Huffman questioned all aspects of the proposal and secured commitments which will make broadband gains even more impactful. With $250 million allocated for broadband enhancements, the legislature is laying the groundwork for equitable Internet access in all corners of the state.

In the tax arena, Ohio has long had a tax on employers using employment services. Taxing job growth in this manner is in direct conflict with job development goals. Knowing that now is the time to help Ohioans get back to work and employers’ doors open, the new budget eliminates this tax entirely in what will be a significant gain for both Ohioans seeking employment and employers.

Too often taxpayers — the people who pay all the bills for government — do not benefit directly from the budget process. But this year under Cupp and Huffman’s leadership, Ohio wage earners will receive a 3 percent cut in their state income taxes, a savings that totals $1.6 billion that will be injected into Ohio’s economy.

Throughout the budget process, Speaker Cupp and President Huffman fostered collaboration on the toughest generational concerns facing every community in our state, urban or rural. They took on school funding. They took on Internet access. They took on taxes. And they still managed to pass a budget on time.

Under the leadership and partnership of Lima’s legislators, brighter days are on the horizon for all Ohioans.

Alexandra Denney