Ohio House takes a step to keep state operating if lawmakers miss the upcoming budget deadline
The Republican-dominated Ohio House has informally passed a measure that could allow the state to continue normal operations if lawmakers fail to reach agreement on a two-year state budget by the June 30 deadline. By taking this action, a budget continuation has been put on the calendar and can be taken up and voted on quickly by the full House if it appears the budget deadline is not going to be met.
Select members of the House and Senate are working behind closed doors to hash out some 880 differences between the House-passed budget and the Senate version. Unlike the House plan, the Senate version of the budget failed to get support from a single Democrat in that chamber.
The House version allows more money for public education, food banks and child care, as well as smaller tax cuts and limited expansion of public vouchers to attend private schools.
The Senate version allows for universal vouchers of at least a partial tuition payment for nearly every child who attends private schools. It also gives deeper personal income and commercial activity tax cuts. The Senate budget doesn't allow as much money for public K-12 schools, and it cuts child care funding that was included in the House plan.
There's another big difference between the House and Senate versions of the budget. The Senate's proposal contains policy changes — bills that were passed in that chamber but haven't yet passed the House. Those include gutting the power of the Ohio State Board of Education, and giving it to the legislature and the governor.
Language was also inserted in the Senate's budget bill affecting higher education. The proposals dictate what could be taught at the state's universities, eliminate diversity, prevent teachers from being able to go on strike, eliminate equity and inclusion programs in schools and mandate state workers who are working from home return to their offices.
House members are still working with senators on the conference committee to reconcile their budget differences, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) told reporters.
“We have a a great budget, you know, we're bringing together. And I think, you know, we'll see how the next couple of days go. But I'm hopeful that we get everything done before the holiday. If we do, then that'll be great. If we don't, then we're ready to deal with that as well,” Stephens said.
By informally passing a budget continuation and putting it on the calendar, Stephens said the House is sending a signal to Ohioans that they won’t see major disruptions if the biennial budget isn’t passed by the July 30 deadline.
“What I think's important is for the people of Ohio to know that the the government is not going to shut down,” Stephens said. “There is not going to be a major crisis from a financial standpoint for the state of Ohio, because we are, you know, discussing issues that will affect the next two years. That's simply, you know, that's that's not how we do it here in Ohio.”
John Fortney, a spokesman for Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) took issue with the House's passage of the continuation.
"Republican voters would be surprised to learn that a super majority of House Republicans would rather support a radical Democrat budget instead of a balanced budget that supports record tax relief and the educational choices of parents for their children. We remain committed to good faith negotiations," Fortney said.
Fortney isn't saying if the Senate, which has session Wednesday, will try to follow the House's lead and informally pass a continuation in that chamber of the current budget while negotiations continue.