Last week Governor DeWine signed the fiscal year 2025-2026 biennial budget bill. Nearly 7,000 pages in length, this legislation provides funding for the majority of state agencies and programs (excluding ODOT). The majority of infrastructure funding and policy items are usually found in the separate biennial transportation budget, which was approved in March. However this session there are a few items of interest for the heavy/highway industry in the general budget bill. They are:
1. Connect4Ohio program - Funded with $500 million in surplus general revenue funds, this program is meant to provide funding for unfunded TRAC projects in rural areas.
2. Manufacturing and Construction Mentorship Program – The bill expanded the current Manufacturing Mentorship Program to include construction. This program allows 16 and 17 year olds to work in manufacturing and with approval of this bill, construction. Program rules, consistent with federal law, will be provided by the Ohio Department of Commerce. The authorizing language states that minors may participate as long as they have a valid drivers license and receive a ten-hour OSHA safety course. In addition, the minors may be subject to a drug screening. OCA, AGC of Ohio, the building trades, and our labor partners have routinely opposed expanding this program to construction. Participation would be voluntary.
3. Competitive bidding thresholds for local government – Thresholds were increased from $50,000 to $75,000 and an inflation adjustor was added so amounts will be adjusted annually by no more than 3 percent. The Director of the Department of Commerce will publish the annual rates. These limits are separate and apart from force account limits which still apply. Examples of where these thresholds will apply are vertical construction and reconstruction, supply purchases, vehicle purchases, etc. Also for local governments, right now most local governments cannot award a contract if the bid amount is 10 percent over the estimate. The bill allows contracts to be awarded up to 20 percent over estimate.
4. Sales and use tax on temporary traffic control items – These items are currently exempt from sales tax when being used on public projects. Language was added (at our request) that states items required to comply with the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices are eligible for the exemption. This provides guidance to the Department of Taxation which has been slow to provide guidance on this issue.
5. School Counselor Training – Guidance counselors will be required to complete four hours of training about building and construction trades career pathways. The State Board of Education is required to enter into an agreement with a construction trade organization, such as Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio, to create the training program. The training must be completed at a construction trades training facility and include information about the pay and benefits and job opportunities and available apprenticeships. Guidance counselors are required to have this training every five years.
There will be a special statewide election on Tuesday, August 8 for State Issue 1. It is a special election set by the General Assembly and voters will have only one item to consider when they vote.
Since rules were set in place by an Ohio Constitutional Convention in 1912, a simple majority (50% plus one) of Ohioans voting has been required to approve a state constitutional amendment. If passed, Issue 1 would change that to a 60% supermajority for any amendment on the ballot after August 8. The 60% rule would apply to all proposed constitutional amendments – including those proposed through the citizen initiative petition process or those recommended by the General Assembly (such as bond issues).
Issue 1 also raises requirements for the citizen-initiated process for constitutional amendments by mandating that petitioners reach a quota of valid voter signatures equal to five percent of the voters in the prior gubernatorial election in all of Ohio’s 88 counties, up from the 44-county standard that’s been in effect since 1912. A 10-day “cure period” to allow petitioners to address deficiencies in their signatures would also be eliminated if Issue 1 passes in August. The new signature requirements would go into effect in 2024.
A simple majority of ballots cast in the August special election is needed to adopt Issue 1.
For more information, we have provided the official ballot language for Issue 1, as well as official arguments for and against Issue 1, as filed with the Ohio Secretary of State. Also provided are links to the Vote Yes on Issue 1 campaign and to the Vote No on Issue 1 campaign.
Official ballot language including arguments for and against - https://www.ohiosos.gov/globalassets/elections/2023/spec/issuereport.pdf
The Vote Yes campaign - https://www.voteyesohio.com/
The Vote No campaign - https://votenoinaugust.org/
OCA has not taken a position on this initiative. We would be remiss if we didn’t share that many bond programs such as the Ohio Public Works Commission are a part of the Ohio Constitution and are subject to voter approval. In addition, the Ohio Constitution includes a protection that gas tax revenue can only be expended on roads and bridges. As we look to capture revenue from alternative fuel vehicles, similar protections may be needed.
Early voting for the August election begins Tuesday, July 11. Be sure to check your local board of elections for any updates as polling locations may have changed.
If you have questions on any of these items please let me know.
Thanks for your continued support.
Ohio Contractors Association