YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN and The Associate Press) – The finish line is in sight, but the final stretch is all uphill for Ohio lawmakers who have to approve a state budget by Friday.
The state is working to put together a spending plan of about $32 billion for each of the next two years.
A House-Senate committee is trying to reach agreement on the major stumbling blocks.
The main idea for most Ohioans is that the bill won’t increase spending and won’t increase taxes. Revenue estimates have been below expectations, and some lawmakers want to make sure things like education spending and better roads and bridges are protected.
“Right now, it is important that we focus on those strategic investments, and this budget fight is about priorities this week in Columbus,” said Rep. John Boccieri, D-59th District.
The Ohio House approved the nearly $64 billion, two-year operating budget in May.
The plan imposes new controls on Medicaid expansion money and invests $170 million in tackling the state’s No. 1 ranking in opioid deaths.
The bill cleared the Republican-controlled chamber 58-36 after three hours of debate.
“We want to balance our budget. I think it is extremely important we do that. How it is balanced, how we continue to raise revenue going forward is extremely important,” said Rep. Glenn Holmes, D-63rd District.
The House removed a package of tax changes proposed by Republican Gov. John Kasich – which included increases in sales, tobacco, alcohol and other taxes to help fund a 17 percent income-tax cut.
The House bill calls for making up about $157 million in revenue by other means, including by increasing the percentage of state lottery proceeds earmarked for education and adding the Lucky One game. It also calls for increasing the state share of revenue from lottery-run video slots machines and allowing video poker at racinos.
The House also added what leaders called “guardrails” to the ability of Kasich’s Medicaid Department to spend dollars Ohio gets for a Medicaid expansion allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The plan requires the state controlling board to release the funds every six months and specifies conditions that must be met for the money to flow.