State Budget

A Republican-dominated legislative panel has passed a slew of changes to Ohio's budget, including a last-minute abortion regulation requiring doctors to provide written notice to pregnant women of a detectable fetal heartbeat.

The six-member conference committee moved the spending bill along party lines Tuesday night. The 4-2 vote sends the finalized budget bill to the floors of both legislative chambers, which are likely to take action Thursday.

Lawmakers face a Sunday deadline to pass the almost $62 billion, two-year spending bill.

An Ohio legislative panel is scheduled to put the finishing touches on the state budget after a Tuesday afternoon meeting.

The six-member conference committee working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the spending blueprint planned a vote after the meeting.

Majority Republican leaders have already announced some tax changes expected to be included in the budget. Those include a gradual income tax reduction over three years, beginning with an 8.5-percent cut in the first year.

A left leaning think tank says the proposed two year state budget would help private and charter schools but would hurt public schools.

Innovation Ohio’s Dale Butland says public schools are the big losers in the Republican backed budget plan that’s on the table right now.

"Most of them will get less money than they did in the 2010-11 budget and about 25% of our schools will get less than they did in the 2012-13 budget," says Butland.

A legislative panel finalizing Ohio's budget is expected to discuss a tax package that includes a statewide income-tax cut of 10 percent.

The six-member committee planned Monday to hash out the budget differences between the House and Senate, which passed separate tax proposals that must be reconciled.

Republican leaders released details last week of the tax package that is meant to be included in the budget. It calls for a gradual income tax reduction over three years, beginning with an 8.5-percent cut in the first year. 

The committee working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budget now has updated estimates on tax revenues and Medicaid. Those numbers were higher than estimates, but they came with a caution.

The Office of Budget and Management estimates $709 million more in tax revenues above the original forecast, but budget director Tim Keen says after payments to the federal government for unemployment benefits, transfers to the rainy day fund and other issues are paid, there will only be about $397 million extra to do more tax cuts or spending.

Supporters of expanding the Medicaid program to include more low-income people are urging Ohio lawmakers to restore the proposal to the state budget.

The group Advocates for Ohio's Future said Tuesday that it's open to separate legislation that achieves the same goal, as long as it's passed by June 30, the same deadline the budget faces.

The governor's budget proposal called for an expansion of Medicaid under the federal health care law. But the Legislature has largely kept the idea separate from the budget bill. 

As expected, the Republican dominated Senate passed its budget in a marathon seven hour session. But as Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, minority Democrats did all they could to get their concerns heard before Republicans passed the bill.

Food banks might lose the money that House lawmakers put in their version of the budget. The Senate’s changes to the budget plan that was voted out of committee today/yesterday do not include a House provision to add 2 million dollars into the state’s food banks, and a Democratic amendment to do that was rejected. Lisa Hamler Fugitt of the Ohio Association of Food Banks says she’s disappointed that more funding for food banks was out of the Senate version of the budget, while changes to the state’s exotic animals law stayed in.

Majority Republicans in the Ohio Senate say their state budget education proposal spreads more money to more school districts.

Senate President Keith Faber says the plan increases state aid to schools in the two-year budget by more than $717 million compared to the current budget, which ends June 30.

Faber said Thursday the money stems from expected adjustments to state revenue and Medicaid caseload projections.

The GOP-controlled Senate's proposal spends almost $142 million more to fund schools compared to the House-passed version of the spending bill.

The Ohio Senate has produced a bill outlining some of the changes it is making to the proposed two year state budget. Ohio Senators have removed from the state budget a proposal forcing universities to offer in state tuition to out of state students who request the documents necessary to vote in Ohio. The Senate bill also removes spider monkeys from the list of exotic animals to be regulated by the state. But Governor Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid expansion, which was removed in the house version of the budget, hasn’t been added back into the senate plan.