The first budget I ever developed was for my 4-H market hog project 40 years ago. That was the first of many budgets I have worked on including the annual budget for our family’s farm and then 15 budgets prepared for Fayette County as a county commissioner. These were great preparation for my role in helping to develop Ohio’s main operating budget.
Now, debate on Ohio’s budget has shifted to the Ohio Senate, where hearings on the bill are currently underway. The state budget is arguably the single-largest piece of legislation we will handle during this legislative session – it provides funding for state agencies and departments, health and human services, education and a host of other initiatives.
The state budget outlines our spending priorities for the next two years and indicates important policy goals. As was done two years ago during the last budget cycle, the Senate is focused on crafting a plan that is fiscally responsible and promotes job growth, while spending our limited resources in areas where they can do the most good.
The budget that is before us now is considerably different from the one that was originally introduced by the Governor earlier this year. Members of the Ohio House of Representatives removed provisions that would have expanded Ohio’s Medicaid program and increased the taxes levied on oil and gas drilling, and altered others such as the formula used to distribute funding to Ohio’s school districts. The House also changed the Governor’s proposals regarding tax reform.
Members of the Senate will continue to discuss these issues as we seek to put our own mark on the $62 billion budget. This year, the Senate is using a new process for analyzing the state budget – President Faber has created three Finance subcommittees to allow all Senators more participation in the process. I have been chosen to chair the Senate General Government Subcommittee, which is covering all budget areas not pertaining to education or health issues.
The budget bill is more than 4,500 pages long, which is why we rely on the testimony from the various state agencies funded by the budget, as well as many organizations and members of the public on how the bill impacts them and what changes they believe are needed. Once the subcommittees have finished hearing testimony, we will then make recommendations on any changes to the full Senate Finance Committee, which is ultimately responsible for the budget bill that will come before the full Senate.
Testimony on the budget will likely continue throughout this month, with the Senate’s changes to the bill being announced towards the end of May. A vote on the budget by the full Senate will probably occur sometime in June, leaving several weeks to hammer out the differences between the Senate- and House-passed versions of the budget before it heads to the Governor for his signature. By law, the budget must be enacted by July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.