COLUMBUS — Ohio’s next two-year budget will contain a personal income tax cut, but who will benefit remains in dispute between the conflicting House and Senate versions.
The Republican-controlled Ohio Senate on Thursday voted 23-10, along party lines, to finalize its version of a nearly $62 billion spending plan. The chamber stripped out the House-passed 7 percent income tax cut for all Ohioans in favor of a $1.4 billion cut targeting owners of small businesses.
“Looking at where we were two years ago, it’s amazing [that] the discussion we’ve been having regarding this budget has been about cutting taxes, not raising them,” said state Sen. Scott Oelslager (R., Canton).
A joint House-Senate conference committee will hammer out a compromise between the two proposals with the goal of getting a final plan to Gov. John Kasich’s desk by June 30.
As the Senate debated the budget, the Kasich administration released numbers showing that tax collections through the first 11 months of this fiscal year have run $735.5 million, or 4 percent, ahead of projections.
State Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) argued that money from the proposed tax cuts would be better invested in such things as additional support for K-12 schools and health care.
“Instead, the focus has been placed on investing our resources in tax breaks that overwhelmingly benefit a very small portion of the state,” she said. “We have heard that these tax breaks will bring jobs and prosperity to Ohio, but those same promises have been made many times in the past, and we’re still waiting to see those promises come to fruition.”
The 5,371-page House Bill 59 veers often from dollars and cents. Republicans rejected an attempt by Democrats to remove language that would make it tougher for abortion clinics to get emergency agreements with hospitals that the bill says they must have.
“You’re telling public hospitals you can’t do business with these clinics,” state Sen. Charleta Tavares (D., Columbus) said. “Further, you can’t do business with the physicians who are on your panels at your hospitals. So in essence, you’re destroying health care for women, and as a woman, I’m offended.”
But state Sen. Peggy Lehner (R., Kettering) defended the abortion-related amendments, particularly one placing Planned Parenthood at the end of the line when it comes to distributing federal family-planning dollars.
“We are not talking about a war on women,” she said. “We are not talking about trying to deny women access to contraception. ... If Planned Parenthood chose today to give up being the nation’s No. 1 abortion provider, this amendment would be yanked out of here faster than a fetal heartbeat.”
The bill also opens the door to higher speed limits on more four-lane rural highways and erases an overdue $553,389 sales-tax bill for the Toledo Mud Hens.
There are many other things on which the House and Senate agree. Neither plan includes Mr. Kasich’s proposed partnership with the federal government to expand eligibility for Medicaid coverage under President Obama’s health-care reform law.
And they both left largely intact a new funding formula for public colleges and universities that distributes state aid based more on how many students they graduate and retain in the state rather than the number they enroll.
The Senate is more generous with K-12 schools than the House or governor.
But even with $717 million more funneled into basic school subsidies over two years, the plan does not restore funding to levels seen prior to the deep cuts imposed during the recession.
Both the House and Senate versions contain some increase in funding for local governments, but again not to prerecession levels.
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.
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