In the past week, there’s been no apparent progress on a budget deal between the GOP-controlled Ohio House and GOP-controlled Ohio Senate. A 17-day stopgap funding measure is in place, keeping state government running until next Wednesday, albeit at Kasich-era funding levels.
Unlike in 2009, the last time the state failed to enact a budget by the statutory deadline, Ohio’s two legislative chambers and the executive branch are all controlled by a single political party and lawmakers have $3 billion more to work with than they did two years ago — in contrast to 2009 when the budget was delayed by divided government fighting over how to allocate billions in difficult cuts in the middle of a recession. This shouldn’t be hard.
During Ohio’s 2009 budget impasse, the Plain Dealer reported “Adoptions across Cuyahoga County are frozen, child-care providers are in danger of closing and school districts are having problems drawing up budgets with the next school year creeping closer each day” and that “for Ohio school districts, the temporary budgets have prolonged the suspense about how much money they can expect from the state.”
Today, Governing Magazine called out Ohio as one of 7 states operating without a budget, noting the risk to the state’s credit rating: “late budgets are a sign of governance weakness which, in extreme cases, can be negative for state credit quality. Late budgets can also expose local governments and other downstream entities to an interruption in state payment.”
To get a deal to Governor DeWine by Wednesday, lawmakers on the House-Senate conference committee will need to adopt a final bill and send it to the floor of both chambers for an up-or-down vote by Tuesday. However, no meetings of the committee are currently scheduled, and no session dates are on the calendar other than two “if needed” sessions of the Ohio House.
Still up for debate; tax cuts, education spending and how to deal with pharmacy benefit managers, who, we learned from new reporting by the Dispatch, are cutting into profit margins so badly that parts of our state are now pharmacy deserts.
It’s worth noting what lawmakers were doing last week instead of working on a budget. If social media is to be believed, mostly fishing and walking in parades:
This week, we notice that several lawmakers — including the Senate President — are holding fundraisers away from the Statehouse. Perhaps budget-writers are looking for one last chance to curry favor with special interests before they decide which goodies will stay in the final budget package. But the optics of holding a high-dollar fundraiser when the budget is on life-support are bad.
This one, held by the political arm of the Senate Republicans, is raising eyebrows:
No bills were introduced last week that we’re monitoring. Maybe next week!
>> You can monitor the status of all the bills we are watching here.
News reports suggest more changes could be coming for House Bill 6, the controversial legislation to bail out two nuclear power facilities and roll back Ohio’s green energy standards. Watch for possible hearings of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities committee later in the week.
Other than that, no committees or legislative sessions are scheduled for the week, but that could change quickly if budget negotiations are fruitful.