COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Highlights of the two-year state operating budget proposed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine include:
— Allotting $550 million over the biennium — at least $55,000 per district, plus more based on need — to help schools support and encourage students through mental health counseling, mentoring, after-school programs and other efforts.
— Setting aside $900 million for water-related initiatives over the next decade, including cleaning up toxic algae in Lake Erie.
— Nearly doubling state funding for family and children services to $151 million a year, including $90 million annually in child-protection funding to counties and $25 million annually for serving children who require help from multiple state agencies.
— Raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes, other tobacco products and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21.
— Tripling reimbursement funding to a total of $90 million annually to help counties pay for the defense of criminal suspects who can't afford lawyers.
— Requiring public universities to guarantee students the same tuition rate from their freshman through senior years.
— Adding $50 million more for evidence-based home visitation programs that provide free support and resources for low-income families raising young children.
— Providing $30 million to help 20,000 Ohioans attain low-cost industry credentials, or "micro-degrees," in growing fields.
— Designating $2.5 million next year to add 15 specialty courts — such as those helping defendants with mental illness or substance abuse problems — and $5 million in 2021 to support those courts and pay for 15 more.