Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Ohio’s biennial budget into law on June 30th, and included among the provisions were severe cuts to consumer protections and short-term funding for energy-related economic development projects.
The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the state’s utility consumer advocacy office, had its budget slashed from $8.5 million per year to $5.6 million in Fiscal Year 2012, and will experience another budget cut of $4.1 million in Fiscal Year 2013. The OCC has closed its consumer call center among in response to the budget bill.
“As a result of these reductions, which cut the agency budget in half, the OCC will have to greatly curtail and, in some cases, eliminate its representation and the resources needed to look out for the best interests of Ohio’s utility customers,” said Consumers’ Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander in a press release.
The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel is funded through fees assessed on investor-owned utilities, and will not reduce the state’s tax burden.
Funding for Ohio’s soil and water conservation districts was ultimately maintained at $2.9 million in the state budget. Significant cuts had been proposed in the Governor’s initial budget. The budget contained language that requires a study of the way that the soil and water districts are funded. A task force will convene in September and is required to deliver its recommendations to the Governor by December 31.
The Ohio Advanced Energy Fund will be funded in the next fiscal year at $8 million, but how the money will be spent has not yet been determined. The Ohio Department of Development’s website indicates that the Energy Resources Division will announce the new program in the fall of 2011.
Additionally the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves was maintained in the budget.