Ohio Senate leaving tight window for budget compromise

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The Ohio Senate has laid out a timeline for action on the next state operating budget that will leave less than two weeks to work out differences with the House.

Senate Finance Chairman Scott Oelslager set Wednesday as the deadline for proposed amendments to the $71.5 billion, two-year spending blueprint. The North Canton Republican said he expects a revised bill to hit his committee June 8, with a Senate floor vote likely on June 17 or June 18.

That leaves an unusually short window for a joint conference committee of the House and Senate to strike a compromise. Gov. John Kasich would need to sign the bill by June 30.

The House has stripped many provisions from Kasich’s budget bill – including much of his income-tax cut and his school-funding formula – that the Senate is likely to fully or partially restore.

According to legislative records, no budget since 2001 has cleared the Senate later than June 13.

Five other budget bills since 2001 cleared the Senate between June 1 and June 8, and one, in 2001, even passed the chamber May 23.

Senate President Keith Faber said Wednesday that the Senate got the budget bill late this year, a suggestion the House has refuted.

The Senate got the bill April 27, after House passage April 22. Records show three of the past seven operating budgets arrived in the Senate earlier than that, with the other four arriving between April 30 and May 10. All got to conference committee sooner than this year’s bill will.

Either way, Faber said he’s not worried about having less time than in past years.

“Maybe they needed more time,” he said.

He said the short window provides no advantage to the Senate, but House Finance Chairman Ryan Smith called that foolish.

“It clearly gives the Senate an advantage because the Senate knows what they’re going to do in their bill and the House and governor don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said. “There are three pieces of the puzzle, and clearly the one piece we’re all waiting to see is what the Senate proposes.”

Neil Clark, a longtime Statehouse lobbyist and former Senate budget director, said the House and Senate typically pass versions of the budget that contain policies they need to get elected, and conference committee is where the real decisions are made – but it doesn’t have to take long.

“If people are cooperative, you can do it in three days,” he said.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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