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How Hamilton Co. Could Save $3.8M If DeWine's Budget Makes This One Change

The Ohio Senate met late into a Saturday night to pass temporary budget extension.
Kiichiro Sato
The Ohio Senate met late into a Saturday night to pass temporary budget extension.

A provision in Gov. Mike DeWine's proposed state budget could save Hamilton County about $3.8 million, according to local officials. A Supreme Court decision nearly 60 years ago makes it a state obligation to pay for the legal defense of very low-income defendants in county courts.

"That has historically been an unfunded mandate from the state," said Jim Benedict, vice president of Government Strategies Group, a company that lobbies on behalf of Hamilton County at the Statehouse. "We believe the state should fully fund that indigent defense reimbursement, but historically they have not."

Over the years, Ohio has paid as little as 40-50% of those costs, leaving counties to make up the rest.

The state is currently reimbursing about 75%. Gov. DeWine's proposed two-year budget would bring that to 96% in the first year, and 94% in the second.

"We certainly appreciate the governor taking a big step towards getting to full reimbursement, but we are continuing to advocate for full funding," Benedict said.

Two state representatives are considering an amendment that would reach full state funding in this budget cycle. The budget eventually passed in the House and will likely see more changes in the Senate before final passage.

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Becca Costello