COLUMBUS -- The Ohio House gave its initial approval Tuesday to the state's biennial operating budget, with supporters touting increasing funding for efforts to combat drug addiction and critics questioning whether the two-year spending plan was balanced, as required by the state constitution.
HB 49 passed on a split vote of 58-37, with Republicans mostly supporting and Democrats mostly opposing, following several hours of debate.
The legislation now heads to the Ohio Senate, which will make additional changes in coming weeks, and the two chambers will form a conference committee to hash out a final legislative version thereafter.
The governor can use his line-item veto authority to strike sections he opposes before signing the final bill into law before July 1, the start of the new state fiscal year.
Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell), who serves as chairman of the House Finance Committee, called the two-year spending plan OK'd by the House "a responsible budget" that practices "restrained growth and controlled growth during a time of uncertain revenues."
"It is an attempt to be fiscally prudent, maintaining a strong business climate and sending resources to our [communities] to address the various needs," he said. "We need to identify our spending priorities with the limited resources we had available, which resulted in a large part of the overall investment going to education and addressing the opiate problem that's ravaging our state."
Democrats, however, said the House budget doesn't do enough to address drug issues or funding for local governments and schools, among other issues.
"A third to half of the school districts in the state will see cuts with this budget," said Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). "I believe where this budget leaves us sitting will be bad for middle class Ohioans in particular."
The legislation outlines about $63.7 billion in general fund spending over the next two fiscal years, according to dollar totals compiled by the state's Legislative Service Commission.
The amended legislation did not include Gov. John Kasich's tax reform package or his proposals to add several business people as non-voting members of school boards, require teachers to complete externships at businesses to help them better understand changing work force needs, and centralize the collection of municipal income taxes at the state level.