Earlier today, Gov. Kasich unveiled his $72.3 billion biennial budget for Fiscal Years 2016-17. Below are the highlights.
More Income Tax Cuts As expected, the major focus of the governor’s budget is further erosion of the state income tax. The proposal asks for a 23% across-the-board personal income tax (PIT) reduction over the biennium, and elimination of the PIT for small businesses who have less than $2 million in annual gross receipts.
The governor proposes to make up much of the lost income tax revenue by increasing sales and use taxes 22.8% and increasing the commercial activity tax (CAT tax) by 88% over the biennium.
Generally speaking, the Ohio Conference AAUP has been leery of income tax cuts because they have done little to help the average Ohioan, and they eliminate revenue that could be invested in things like public higher education.
Additionally, increasing the sales tax tends to put a greater burden on lower income earners.
Higher Education Appropriations Higher education funding under Kasich’s proposed budget accounts for 6.8% of total general revenue spending.
Kasich’s plan would appropriate a total of about $2.4 billion to higher education in FY 2016, representing a 2% increase over appropriations during FY 2015.
For FY 2017, the governor would appropriate about $2.5 billion, which would be a 2.5% increase from the previous year.
While we applaud the funding increases, it must be noted that these allocations don’t restore higher education funding to where it was before Kasich took office. In FY 2011, under Gov. Strickland’s last budget, higher ed spending was $20.5 million higher than it will be in FY 2017.
Addressing Costs & Student Debt
As far as tuition caps, Kasich would allow a 2% tuition increase at public colleges and universities in FY 2016 but no increase in FY 2017.
Additionally, the governor has proposed a $120 million “debt relief fund.” The details of how this money would be awarded are unclear, but the goal is to prioritize low-income, in-demand jobs and those who work in Ohio for five years.
Moreover, Kasich has called for the creation of a nine-member Task Force on Affordability and Efficiency that will be charged with finding efficiencies and ways to reduce costs at colleges and universities.
Community College Bachelor’s Degrees
Outside of the funding pieces, Kasich introduced language that would allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees when local job creators express a need for workers with advanced training and only if there is not a public university or its regional campus within 30 miles that has such a program. Expansion of OCOG Eligibility, College Credit Plus Funding
Additionally, the Kasich administration, as well as leaders of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges and Inter-University Council, are touting that the best way to reduce college costs is to reduce time to degree completion.
In that vein, the governor has proposed offering the need-based Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) to community college students during the summer.
OCOG has not been available to community college students because of a “Pell first” rule that requires those students to use federal Pell Grant funds before accessing OCOG. The Pell money tends to cover the full educational costs for those students but currently is not available for summer session.
Moreover, the governor is making a push to get more high school students enrolled in College Credit Plus and Advanced Placement courses by asking for $6.5 million in new funding for those programs in FY 2017.
Funds for “College-Level Teachers”
Kasich also wants $18.5 million over the biennium to hire and train more “college-level teachers” to teach in economically-disadvantaged high schools.
While we appreciate the intent, we have concerns about qualification standards and quality assurances and will need to see more details.
Awarding Competency-Based Credit
The governor is asking Ohio’s public colleges and universities to develop a plan to give competency-based credit for certain courses. He also has set aside $500,000 to develop a competency-based training program to train Ohioans in skills for “in-demand jobs.”
No Workload Edict
Rejoice! This is the first budgetary bill that Gov. Kasich has introduced that does not contain a mandate to arbitrarily increase faculty workload.
Links to Executive Budget Information
Separate from Gov. Kasich’s executive budget, Ohio House and Senate Republicans have their own plans for public higher education.
House leaders have called for providing $100 million in grants over two years for students who are working to earn degrees in “high-demand” jobs in Ohio.
Under House Bill 1, introduced by Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Rep. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville), a student could get up to $5,000 a year to pay for higher education as long as they meet certain requirements, such as spending three months in a workplace setting to “get a feel for whether they want to continue along that path.”
Once a student graduates and gets a job in their field, they could take a 25% tax credit on their student loans.
We plan to reach out to Reps. Schuring and Manning to discuss ways in which we might make college more affordable, and student debt less crippling, for everyone.
Senate leaders have their own ideas for tackling higher educations costs.
Sen. President Keith Faber (R-Celina) has introduced Senate Bill 4, which would require each board of trustees at state institutions of higher education to submit to the Chancellor a plan to reduce in-state student cost of attendance by 5% for the 2016-2017 academic year.
While we commend Sen. Faber for his goal of decreasing costs – a goal we share – we believe a better approach would be to ask institutions to form task forces to come up with a plan. The task forces should be representative of the university community, including students and faculty, so that there is a balance of interests.
The Nominating Committee of the Ohio Conference AAUP is pleased to put forth the following candidates for this year’s elections:
-Vice President: Martin Kich, Wright State University – Lake Campus
-Treasurer: Heather Howley, University of Akron – Wayne College
-At-Large Member – Public Institution with <100 or Private Institution: Anita Waters, Denison University
This year’s elections again will be conducted electronically. Each current Ohio AAUP member will be e-mailed a ballot no later than March 15 and will have two weeks to vote.
The AAUP and AAUP-CBC have announced that this year’s Summer Institute will be held at the University of Denver from July 23 to 26.
The Summer Institute is a four-day series of workshops and seminars designed to train and educate AAUP members on a wide range of topics such as organizing, advocacy, and academic freedom.
More information about this event can be found by clicking here.
Each year the Ohio Conference offers scholarships to Ohio members who want to build a new chapter, strengthen an existing one, or simply learn how to be a more effective advocate of AAUP principles. Be on the lookout for more information about scholarship availability in the coming months.
The next Ohio Conference AAUP Annual Meeting will be held Friday, November 6 – Saturday, November 7, 2015 at the Renaissance Columbus Downtown.
We will have a registration form and hotel reservation information available in the coming months.