by State Rep. Kathleen Chandler

The Ohio House passed the state budget 97-0. That is a remarkable and rare bipartisan performance that has not occurred in the Ohio House since 1955!

I attribute this success to the leadership style of Gov. Ted Strickland, as well as the willingness of leaders in both houses to work together to resolve issues.

Strickland introduced the state budget proposal in mid-March. We spent many, many hours in a bipartisan committee listening to testimony, asking questions and negotiating. Some days started at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m.

After weeks of reviewing the budget, the majority party introduced a substitute bill which embraced most of the governor's proposals for his turnaround Ohio initiatives, but also included items of importance to the majority party.

Although there are items in the budget that I'm not happy with, there is so much I think is important that it made it easy for me to support it.

The budget proposal is now in the Senate for review. The Senate will no doubt make changes, which will go to a conference committee. Then both chambers will vote on the committee's recommendations. All this must be done before June 30.

The $53.5 billion annual budget has the lowest spending rate in over 42 years. This is due in part to a sluggish economy and to the major tax reductions from the last General Assembly.

In spite of this, Strickland crafted a budget that focuses on those issues we care about the most. Following are some of the provisions of the House-passed bill.

* SENIOR AND disabled citizens will receive property tax relief through an exemption on the first $25,000 of the market value of their residences. This is an expansion of the homestead exemption.

For example, a home valued at $50,000 will have the property tax cut in half. There will be no loss to school funding because the state will offset the loss with additional revenue to the schools.

* As an alternative to nursing home care, the Passport program allows individuals to stay in their homes. This budget will provide an additional 5,600 Passport slots during the next two years.

* Higher education will receive a 2 percent increase in 2008 and 10 percent in 2009. Tuition will be capped at a 3 percent increase in 2008, with no increase in 2009.

This is great news because tuition has been increasing at an average rate of 9 percent per year. Oho Choice Grants will be available to all students whose family income is $95,000 or less.

* All children whose parents earn 300 percent of the poverty rate or less will have access to medical care. Child car provider rates will be increased by 11.5 percent.

* he state's share of the school funding formula for primary and secondary schools will increase by 5.5 percent over the biennium (a 3 percent per pupil increase each year).

In addition, there will be increases for parity aid, as well as poverty-based assistance. There also will be increases for early learning programs, public preschools, early interventions and all-day kindergarten.

As always please feel free to contact me at any time. I always appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached at 330-673-1872 or 614-466-2004.

Chandler is the state representative from the 68th District, which includes most of Portage County.