COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Republicans run the show in Ohio. They hold all statewide elected offices (except one U.S. Senate seat), including the governorship, and they control both chambers of the statehouse.
Practically nothing can stop them from doing what they want, when they want, legislatively.
That includes Ohio’s Constitution, apparently.
Lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass a state operating budget by June 30th so that it is in place for the start of the next fiscal year beginning on July 1.
However, this constitutional requirement has as much teeth as a newborn child, and there is no immediate consequence if lawmakers fail at their duty to meet this deadline.
In the past, Ohio’s lawmakers have failed to meet this deadline. The last time this happened was back when Governor Strickland was in office and the parties could not come to agreement over the budget.
We as a society have come to accept that Republicans and Democrats are going to disagree, and at times that will cause disruptions and missed deadlines.
That is not the situation occurring right now at the statehouse. There is no shortage of money that is requiring an uncomfortable tightening of belts, and the parties at odds are not separated by the aisle.
Instead, they are separated by halves of the building as the GOP-controlled House of Representatives and the GOP-controlled Senate simply do not see eye to eye on a host of issues.
One of the biggest sticking points has been, and continues to be, how to deal with what some Republicans refer to as the Business Income Deduction and others call the LLC Loophole.
The House of Representatives want to reduce eligibility for the program to people with a business making $100,000 or less, and the Senate does not.
State Senator Dave Burke says small business owners need this tax deduction that allows them to not pay state taxes on the first $250,000 they make.
However, some have argued that the program is being abused by individuals who register a business as an LLC, hire no employees but themselves and then use the $250,000 cap as a tax shelter.
This has led some to question why individuals making up to $250,000 should be rewarded with virtually no tax burden when the average Ohioan is paying their fair share as they punch a clock for a company.
The Senate is seeking to protect this deduction. Senate Republicans also bent to the wishes of the Chamber of Commerce that wanted to cut coverage for PTSD (for first-responders only) out of the Worker’s Compensation Budget.
As a spokesman for the chamber put it, if police and fire were given the benefit, then private sector employees would eventually demand it as well and that would cost businesses money.
Coincidentally, the House of Representatives also put the PTSD coverage into the Workers Compensation Budget.
It has been a week and a half since lawmakers missed their constitutional deadline.
They have passed a measure to keep the state running using the previous budget for now, but that extension runs out on July 17.
If they do not reach a deal by then, they can always just pass another extension.
“We’re starting to mature that process very briskly. We don’t want to have to extend beyond 17 days if we can all avoid it. However, we’re also not going to rush to make bad decisions either,” said Burke.
All of the new programs that Governor Mike DeWine wanted to implement, such as helping children, improving safety for Ohioans and protecting the state’s natural resources, are on hold until the two chambers can put together a budget they both support.
Burke says that’s technically saving the state money because those programs are not being funded. At the same time, those programs are also not doing the good they were designed for.
Burke took a creative view of the problem, summing it up like this: the state has done so well as a result of policies the Senate is attempting to defend that it is having trouble agreeing on how to spend the money it has available.
Apparently, too much success has log jammed the statehouse’s controlling party.
When asked if there should be consequences for missing the constitutional deadline, the initial response was, ‘No.’
However, the prospect of lawmakers being voted out of office was identified as the only real consequence for such failure if voters cared.
It was implied that they don’t, because the delay in a state budget hasn’t significantly affected them.