State Budget Watch

[July 8, 2019]

Late on Sunday, June 30, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a short-term funding bill to keep the state running after lawmakers were unable to meet the July 1 deadline. The extension gives the General Assembly an additional 17 days to iron out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the biennial budget bill.

Officials said those differences total more than 590, though many are minor. But a major sticking point is likely between the Senate’s proposed 8 percent personal income tax cut and the House’s proposed cut of 6.6 percent. Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said his caucus also doesn’t agree with Senate provisions regarding health care reforms and school funding.

The last time lawmakers missed the budget deadline was ten years ago. In July 2009, then Gov. Ted Strickland and his Democratic colleagues in the House were gridlocked with Republicans in the Senate for two weeks. Ohio was in a much more precarious position financially because of the recession and a state unemployment rate at 11.2%, a record high.

This time around, Republicans control the Governor's seat, Senate, and House. But foreshadowing of the stalemate came in March when Statehouse leaders could not agree on how much to increase the gas tax. They all agreed the increase was needed for bridge and road repair and maintenance. DeWine had proposed an 18-cent increase; the House approved 10.7 cents; and the Senate, 8.5 cents.

Media reports during this period widely quoted Householder addressing his Senate Republican colleagues about raising taxes: “We were hired to do a job. And when you come here you’ve got to put on your big boy pants, you’ve got to pull your binky out of our mouth and you’ve got to make tough decisions. This is one of these tough decisions. It’s time to move on.”

The gas tax went up 10.5 cents, effective July 1.

The state fiscal year runs July 1-June 30.

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