Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ohio House Democrats pass $54 billion budget

State Sen. Keith Faber and State Rep. Jim Zehringer commented this evening on the budget bill passed today by Ohio House Democrats.

The House voted strictly along party lines (with one Republican representative being absent for the vote). The bill and amendments were provided to Republicans just yesterday, who then had about a day to review the details before voting.

The bill represents a 9.6% increase over the previous year's spending. The spending proposals are reportedly even more aggressive than the outline previously set forth by Governor Strickland.

While House Democrats are touting their education reforms, budget expenditures for education were actually reduced by $1.4 billion. The specific education reforms were said to be detrimental to charter schools and rural districts while benefiting the districts in Cleveland, Columbus, and other metropolitan areas.

The chief criticism of this budget bill is that it relies heavily on one-time (federal) money - and the state budget will become a "train wreck" in two years when the money is no longer avaialble.

The budget also relies on significant increases of "fees," such as a per-bed charge on hospitals. Republicans argue that the "fees" are really just taxes with a different name.

Zehringer said that all Republican amendments, but one, were tabled before today's vote. Zehringer's own amendment was the one that passed. That amendment allows the Greenville School District to be on two funding lists simultaneously ... an exceptional needs list (the need being the crumbling roof at the junior high) and the new school facility list. Being on both lists is normally prohibited. Zehringer's amendment had strong support from the Ohio School Facilities Commission. Zehringer still voted against the bill, notwithstanding the amendment.

The budget will now go to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Faber was already relishing the opportunity to eat into the Democrats' spending proposals.

Ohio's Constitution requires the budget to be completed by July 1. Stay tuned.

Links: Dayton Daily News; Columbus Dispatch.

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