Ohio Senate Finance Committee Adopts Substitute Budget Bill

The Ohio Senate Finance Committee adopted a substitute version of the state budget (HB 1) incorporating numerous changes from the House passed version.  A copy of the bill is available online. 

President Bill Harris characterized the proposal as “balanced, fiscally responsible and sustainable.” It includes spending reductions of more than $650 million in state General Revenue Fund including the elimination of 139 earmarks and other measures in targeted cuts to state agency budgets totaling $417 million; $42 million in mandated Medicaid cost savings; and codifying the $200 million identified earlier by the governor in Executive Order 2009-07S. Senators acknowledged that further cuts could come as the conference committee addresses revised revenue estimates that are due in June.

The Senate made a number of changes of interest to Farm Bureau members in the areas of education, fee increases, and general policy.

K-12 Education:  The Senate eliminated almost all of the Governor’s proposed education reform provisions from the budget, electing instead to maintain current funding levels with an increase of ¼ of one percent.  The bill maintains most of a study commission intended to study the impacts of the Governor’s proposed education changes, but charges it with reviewing the effectiveness of the Governor’s proposal over the next year.  Ohio Farm Bureau had raised concerns about the impact the Governor’s proposal would have on agricultural education programs in Ohio’s high schools and the resulting impacts on  programs such as FFA.

OARDC & OSU Extension:  The Ohio Senate maintained the restoration of funds to OARDC and Extension made by the Ohio House of Representatives. 

Fee Increases:
The Senate eliminated a number of fee increases proposed by the Governor or added in the House of Representatives.  These include proposed fees on agricultural labor camps, new food processing license fees for poultry and meat establishments, livestock dealer license fees, etc.  The Senate also eliminated a proposed increase in the tipping fees for CDD landfills that would have generated additional dollars for Soil and Water Conservation Districts.  Funding for SWCD’s was identified from other sources.

General Policy:
The Senate budget proposal eliminated a provision that would have required the Office of Budget and Management to study the viability of Ohio’s horse racing industry.  It also proposes an extension through December 31, 2009 of the current moratorium on statewide septic laws and grants Ohio townships the ability to file civil lawsuits for the abatement of a public nuisance.

The Senate heard testimony on these provisions (and more) during weekend testimony.  The committee will meet on June 2nd and (if needed) 3rd to consider additional amendments before a full committee vote.  The proposal is expected to come before the full Senate later this week.