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Published: Wednesday, 5/23/2012

Midterm Ohio budget heads to governor’s desk

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS — Startup costs related to Ohio’s upcoming regulations for exotic animals are among new spending items in a wide-ranging midterm budget bill headed Wednesday to Gov. John Kasich for his expected signature.

The bill was a rare reopening of Ohio’s multi-billion dollar budget in during the normal two-year budget cycle, an initiative pushed by Kasich in his second year as governor.

The House and Senate approved final versions of the bill that was slowed in its final days by attempts to insert contentious language requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug testing. Republicans removed that mandate and said it would be pursued in separate legislation.

The bill, which trims overall state spending by $13.5 million, changes state law to allow local governments to share certain services and includes altered or eliminated roles for various government boards and commissions.

Kasich said in a statement he’s reviewing the bill but in general was pleased with the result. He could use the governor’s line-item veto because the bill spends state funds.

“It’s been hard work and addressed a wide array of detailed and complex issues, but the end result is increased efficiency and increased common sense,” Kasich said.

The bill includes $42 million for the Clean Ohio fund that preserves farmland and green spaces and another $3 million for a Lake Erie protection program.

The measure also includes $15 million for cleaning up abandoned factory sites and $13 million to fund Kasich’s initiative that aims to ensure that all third-graders can read before moving on to the fourth grade.

The $500,000 for exotic animal regulation and registration follows passage of a historic crackdown on ownership of such animals in Ohio that was spurred by a suicidal owner’s release of dozens of wild creatures last year.

Kasich has expressed support for a pilot program tying welfare benefits to clean drug tests. Democrats criticized the idea as ineffective and unfairly targeting the poor.

“We should not waste money on a biased program that has already been found to be unconstitutional and a poor investment in other states,” state Sen. Shirley Smith, a Cleveland Democrat, said Tuesday.



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