COLUMBUS — The main mid-biennium budget bill likely is heading to a conference committee to hash out differences between the Ohio House and Senate, following approval of the bill by the latter May 21.
The Senate-amended version of House Bill 483 includes more tax breaks for individuals and businesses, increased job training and career development programs and a further focus on efforts to combat drug addiction.
“This legislation streamlines, reforms, targets and advances services to our fellow Ohioans,” said Sen. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), who serves as chairman of the chamber’s finance committee, which reviewed the bill. “Our focus in the Senate has been job creation, economic growth and work force development.”
But Democrats opposed the bill. Sen. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) called it “a missed opportunity to invest our resources to the people of the state of Ohio and instead furthers tax cuts for the wealthy.”
HB 483 passed the Senate on a split vote of 24-8. House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) told reporters that he expected it and one or more other mid-biennium budget bills to be referred to conference committees for further review, with final action next week or in early June.
The lengthy legislation contains provisions boosting career development and mentoring programs for school children and increasing services to residents addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers.
Senators retained language declaring that college athletes are not employees of the schools they attend, a preemptive strike against students who pursue forming unions.
The Senate added language to accelerate a phased-in tax cut OK’d as part of the last biennial budget, meaning taxpayers will enjoy a 10 percent decrease this year instead of 9 percent.
They also increased, for the current tax year only, a small business deduction to 75 percent from 50 percent, with a maximum deduction amount of $187,500, up from $125,000.
“This is for tax year 2014 only,” Oelslager said, adding, “It should save taxpayers more than $225 million.”
Additionally, the Senate version of the bill increased the state earned income tax credit to 10 percent of the federal credit, up from 5 percent, and increased personal exemption amounts for Ohioans earning up to $80,000.
Among other provisions added by the Senate, HB 483 would:
• Allow certain liquor permit holders to sell “growlers” of beer — glass containers holding up to 1 gallon.
• Limit the state Controlling Board’s ability to approve certain spending, a move that would block the panel from signing off on a Medicaid expansion without a vote of the full legislature.
• Establish an incentive program, providing bonuses to caseworkers who help unemployed Ohioans find jobs.
• Require the governor to create a “workgroup” to develop ways to help needy Ohioans to stop relying on public assistance.
“It benefits all Ohioans,” Sen. Bill Coley, a Republican from southwestern Ohio, said of the legislation. “… I think this bill will continue with our tradition of protecting Ohio taxpayers and restoring economic growth in Ohio.”
Democrats attempted a number of amendments, including an omnibus offering to reverse proposed tax cuts and increase funding for early childhood education, school security, students’ college costs and other initiatives.
Most of the minority party amendments failed, though one offered by Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) was accepted, removing a provision that would have voided an administrative rule that regulated certain campaign contributions from union groups and corporations.
Turner, who is running for secretary of state, still voted against the bill.
“This budget serves a very specific agenda of powerful interests and does very little to improve the lives of everyday Ohioans, from grandma to grandpa to auntie to mamas to daddies,” she said. “It does very little for everyday citizens in the great state of Ohio.”
Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) added later, “I think that again we made this MBR, this corrections budget, all about income tax cuts that have no meaningful impact on the quality of life of the average Ohioan, but instead it makes a good talking point for the governor and members of the legislature to go out on the campaign trail this fall.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.