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Ohio lawmakers fail to reach deal on state budget

By Randy Ludlow • Jul 12, 2019 at 2:00 AM

COLUMBUS — Ten days after the original deadline — and seven days before an interim budget expires — House and Senate negotiators have yet to reach agreement on a deal to pass a near-$69 billion two-year state operating budget.

An end to the stalemate did not come Wednesday evening following a third straight day of meetings between the chambers' Republican leaders — House Speaker Larry Householder and Senate President Larry Obhof. Conference committee negotiators met into the night, but adjourned to resume talks on Thursday morning.

Sources close to the budget talks, who asked not to be identified, confirmed there was no deal amid one report that some progress has been made. It is not known when the conference committee might reach consensus and formally approve a compromise, sending it to floor votes.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, working to bring home his first, child-centered budget passed with bipartisan support, remained in regular contact with legislative leaders while conference committee members and their staffs were cloistered for hours in closed-door meetings nearly every day.

Disagreement over tax changes, education policy, health care and other issues led both chambers to admit on June 29 — the day before the deadline for producing a budget — that a deal could not be struck. Lawmakers passed a stopgap bill to extend state spending at current levels through July 17.

Democrats and other critics painted the failure to produce an on-time budget as embarrassing the ruling Republicans. The budget extension was the first in a decade and only the second since 1991.

It is not known when House and Senate members would potentially gather for votes once an agreement is struck. "If-needed" sessions are not scheduled until July 17, the day the budget extension ends, but Obhof had said it would not be difficult to summon lawmakers back to Columbus for votes before then.

The House and Senate have disagreed over the size of across-the-board income tax cuts (the House wants 6.6% over two years; the Senate 8 percent) and reductions in a so-called "small business" tax cut worth $1.2 million a year. The House wants to halve the size of the reduction, contending it did not deliver jobs, while the Senate signed off on only a $300 million cutback. DeWine wanted it left untouched.

Legislators also have differed over language changing the state takeover of academically failing school districts and revising high school graduation standards.

The House and Senate also must agree to a budget for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, which was granted a 30-day temporary budget. The Senate stripped out House language to allow first responders to claim coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder unaccompanied by a physical injury. Obhof said he supports the coverage, but wanted more "guardrails" than provided by the House.


©2019 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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