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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE - State lawmakers looking to send budget to Kasich today

Scott Seitz2 • Jun 29, 2011 at 11:19 AM

It's getting down to crunch time for the state budget.

Ohio lawmakers have until Thursday to vote a new two-year budget into place.

"The Senate passed it today," State Rep. Terry Boose (R-Norwalk Township) said Tuesday.

(NOTE - To read the budget documents, scroll down to the end of the story and click on the links to call up PDF files.)

"The House will vote on it in Wednesday's (today's) session," he added. "It will probably pass the House on straight party lines."

Once the House passes the budget, it will head to Gov. John Kasich's office.

"The governor could do some line-item vetoes," Boose said, adding he felt that would be unlikely, though.

Boose said the budget has positives and negatives.

"The strength, by far, is we filled the $8 billion deficit without raising taxes," he said. "We've done things like eliminate the estate tax and lower the income tax. The reason the budget bill is so big is it's full of government reform. It's making government more efficient."

Boose doesn't like the cuts in local government funds.

"Local government funds are cut 25 percent the first year, then 50 percent the second year," he said. "There were tough cuts made all over the place. I would have liked to see more administrative cuts at the state level, but every department, except Medicaid, took a 10 or 20 percent cut.

"I'd like to see it a little more even, but the cuts are what they are," he said.

The budget bill is 6,300 pages.

After budget matters are finalized, Boose will return to the district and begin meeting with residents.

His first public event will be a town hall meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday at Sheri's Coffee House. "I'll be out in the district, listening to people again," he said.

"These first six months have been unbelievable," he said about his second term. "A lot of experienced representatives have said we've done more in six months than many did in a full two years. And there's plenty more to do."

Despite the cuts, the budget continues the tax-cutting course charted by the Republican-led General Assembly. It preserves the final 4.2 percent increment of a multiyear income tax cut that took effect on Jan. 1. That's worth about $800 million over the biennium.

It also eliminates the estate tax as of 2013, 80 percent of which currently goes to local governments and schools, and created a new income tax credit against gains earned from investing in Ohio small businesses that will take effect in 2013.

Democrats have held up these tax cuts as examples of how the Republican-written budget advantages wealthier Ohioans while imposing cuts on programs affecting the poor and middle-class families.

The committee made good on deals struck by Kasich with the two owners of four voter-approved casinos under development, including one on Toledo's riverfront. It stripped from the budget language that would have required the casinos to pay Ohio's Commercial Activity Tax on all revenue collected before prize payouts are deducted rather than after.

The plan eliminated a Senate proposal that would have required the Ohio Lottery to contract with a private company to conduct its operations, but still allows the Kasich administration to seek a long-term lease for operation of the Ohio Turnpike. Kasich would have to win legislative approval on the terms of such a deal before sending out notices for bids.

The conference committee resuscitated enforcement of Ohio's 4-year-old, voter-approved smoking ban, which would have seen its funding eliminated under prior versions of the budget.

The compromise moves money around to make $1 million available in both years of the budget to fund enforcement efforts at the local level. It would earmark federal funds to continue operation of the state's quit line to help smokers kick the habit.

McClatchy-Tribune News Services contributed to this story.

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