After 2+ weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations, today appears to be the day we’ll finally see what the state budget looks like. The conference committee on House Bill 166–made up of representatives from the House and Senate–has officially been in recess since late June, waiting for a breakthrough. It looks one is coming today.
The biggest sticking points between the two chambers are reported to be changes to a $1billion+ business tax break and a bailout for two First Energy nuclear power plants. House Republicans wanted to scale back the tax break, in which owners of pass-through businesses, like LLCs, can report up to $250,000 tax-free if they report it as business income. Senate Republicans, for their part, were resisting calls to attach a new fee on utility bills to bail out two First Energy nuclear plants, something that earlier passed the House (as House Bill 6), after weeks of strong-arm politics and millions of dollars in aggressive advertising.
In short, the Titans of the House were holding a tax break for wealthy business owners hostage as leverage to get the Titans of the Senate to pass a corporate bailout. If an impasse has been reached, it’s quite likely that both business owners and electric utilities will end up getting their way, even while ordinary Ohioans still don’t have a school funding plan or affordable college.
Your state legislature at work.
Temporary budgets aren’t without consequences.
As we’ve been saying, delaying the state budget has real impacts. This week we learned that, thanks to uncertainty about state funding for financial aid and allowable tutition increases, many public colleges and universities have delayed sending out tuition bills and financial aid awards for fall, leaving Ohio families up in the air when it comes to a big budget item. Libraries, too, are seeing their funding cut to 2017 levels as the budget delay meant a temporary funding increase passed in that year has not been renewed.
Innovation Ohio President Janetta King explained the irresponsibility of these budget delays in a weekend op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch.
The Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee Monday unveiled its substitute to House Bill 6, legislation to bail out FirstEnergy Solutions’ struggling nuclear power plants. Paid for via an 85 cent monthly utility fee paid by residential ratepayers, the fund would generate $150 million per year to support the power plants, and $20 million more would fund several solar farm projects around the state.
These new funding programs come at a cost for Ohio consumers and the environment. Utility bills will increase and money-saving energy efficiency rebates will be eliminated, while air quality suffers thanks to the elimination of the state’s clean energy standards and subsidies for two aging coal plants.A committee and floor vote is expected Wednesday, with more amendments possible.
What Happens Next?
Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers on the House-Senate conference committee for the budget will vote to adopt a final report, outlining which version of hundreds of budget provisions will prevail. Sometimes the conference committee process producesbrand new options not considered in any previous version of the bill, and that’s what we expect to see today, as negotiators attempt to split the differences on the LLC tax loophole and many other items.
Wednesday, both the House and Senate are scheduled to hold voting sessions to pass the conference report and send it to the Governor for his signature or veto. He has until midnight June 17 to sign the bill, unless another extension is passed.
The chambers are also on a similar timeline to pass a budget for the Workers’ Compensation system, and a conference committee on House Bill 80 is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning. See “Committee Hearings To Watch” section, below, for more.