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Ohio Lawmakers Working Through Weekend To Reach Budget Deal

Ohio Senate president Larry Obhof is defending income tax cuts in their version of the budget, which must be finalized by this weekend.
Paul Vernon
Associated Press
Ohio Senate president Larry Obhof is defending income tax cuts in their version of the budget, which must be finalized by this weekend.

It’s looking like the conference committee working on a compromise state budgetwill stretch into the weekend – with the budget-signing deadline approaching on Sunday night. Among the differences between the Ohio House and Senate versions is an income tax cut and a small business tax break. 

The Senate’s income tax cut is significantly larger than the one in the House budget – 8% compared to 6.6%. House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said Senators paid for that by spending down a cushion in the House budget and taking surplus funds from state agencies.

But Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said extra money was accessed elsewhere.

“We actually did a few things that I think drew down more federal dollars – we were able to leverage federal dollars more,” Obhof said. “But in terms of state GRF, I don’t think the difference was very significant.”

The Senate also restored a deduction allowing many small businesses to take the first $250,000 of their incomes tax free – the House had dropped that to $100,000.

Contingency Plan

Budget conferees expect to work through the weekend to come up with a deal. But Householder said he’s ready to propose a two-week extension if needed.

"Every minute that passes I'm less optimistic," Householder said.

Householder said the House is holding onto another bill, SB 4, a school facilities bill that could be used to temporarily fund the government and the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

"If we have to put something in 4 because we think it's the right place for it to go, because there's appropriateions in there that would give us extensions, 90 days on BWC and 14 days on the operating budget," Householder says.

DeWine said there's no reason that a deal on the $69 billion budget can't be reached this weekend. He noted the House and Senate versions passed with broad bipartisan support. In the case of the Senate, the budget passed with a rare unanimous vote.

"We're not far apart. Our ideals are the same. Both bills passed bipartisan basis. Both of them were consistent with my original budget," DeWine said.

The Senate version includes $550 million that DeWine sought to boost educational wraparound services such as mental health counseling, plus $125 million more toward education-related spending, such as private-school scholarships and more money for growing school districts whose funding has been capped.

Like the House plan, the Senate version raises the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, but also adds taxes on vaping products.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.