Devised initially as a budget amendment, House Bill 463 secured a first hearing before Energy and Natural Resources Committee members in the Ohio House of Representatives this week after the amendment was not included in the budget bill approved earlier this session.
The bill calls for an increase to one of the state fees levied on the transfer or disposal of solid waste in Ohio — the proceeds of which would be deposited into the Soil and Water Conservation District Assistance Fund.
Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts requested the legislation, Chesterland Republican Rep. Sarah LaTourette told fellow House members during sponsor testimony.
She said HB 463 would increases the municipal solid waste fee from 25 cents per ton to 50 cents per ton to generating an additional $3.25 million to the districts.
“Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts have historically been funded through a combination of local and state matched funding with a goal of a one-to-one match,” the lawmaker said. “Local governments have done their best to remain strong and provide funding to the Soil and Water Conservation Districts despite decreases in the local government fund.
“Unfortunately, state match funding has diminished over the years and districts have been unable to replace or add vital personnel during these critical times.”
She estimated that during the course of the past 10 years, the state match has dropped from a high of 98.5 percent to a low, this year, of 70.6 percent.
“This equates to a $4 million dollar shortfall,” LaTourette continued. “The need for local technical expertise from Soil and Water Conservation Districts to landowners continues to increase while funding has steadily been decreasing.
“A state funding increase of about $4 million would be necessary to get to the desired funding level of approximately $14.5 million.”
Under current law, proceeds of the disposal fee are deposited into the existing Soil and Water Conservation District Assistance Fund, according to summary of the bill. The fund is used by the Department of Agriculture to provide money to soil and water conservation districts.
“It is important to have the state match increase to the desired 1:1 ratio for multiple reasons,” the lawmaker continued. “The loss of state support reduces the capabilities of addressing the resources needed throughout the counties which Soil and Water Conservation Districts represent.
“The loss of state support also produces a greater burden on local funding resources, which will lead to the further erosion of critically needed dollars, and it will harm Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ education outreach to teach and train individuals on the importance of conservation practices … that are necessary in order to sustain our economy and quality of living.”
Analysis of HB 463 by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission offered a breakdown of funding streams.
A fee of $2.85 per ton goes to the Environmental Protection Fund. A 75 cents-per-ton fee is paid to the Waste Management Fund. And 90 cents per each ton goes toward hazardous waste facility management and clean up — 20 cents and 70 cents, respectively.
“All of the fees described above are levied on solid waste transfer or disposal through June 30, 2020,” Amanda George wrote for the commission.
LaTourette said with conservation districts having non-mandated funding at the local level coupled with the loss of the Medicaid tax received by local governments, districts are most vulnerable for being cut.
“A fee increase would be a great way to help restore funding and it would enable Soil and Water Conservation districts across the state to provide invaluable expertise and assistance to all Ohioans, which will go a long way to protecting our water quality and further enhance Ohio’s economy,” she said.
HB 463 is a companion to Senate Bill 228, which awaits a first hearing by a senate committee.