COLUMBUS — An Ohio budget that would lower income taxes for individuals, spend more on foster care and boost services benefiting students has approached a weekend deadline with little time to spare.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and fellow Republicans House Speaker Larry Householder and Senate President Larry Obhof met Thursday as negotiations continued over a final version of the $69 billion spending plan.
A key debate is likely between the Senate's proposed 8% personal income tax cut and the House's proposed cut of 6.6%. Obhof put the total sticking points at more than 590, though many of those are minor.
Householder said House lawmakers don't agree with changes the Senate made to health care, tax cuts and school funding. The speaker said he's ready to propose a two-week extension if needed.
"Every minute that passes I'm less optimistic," Householder said.
Obhof said he was "very comfortable" with the tax cut approved by the Senate, especially given positive revenue forecasts.
"If you're able to do the things that the governor and the House and the Senate flagged as priorities for the state but bring in extra money, then that means your tax rate's a little too high," he said.
On Tuesday, the Office of Budget and Management told the House-Senate committee working on the final spending plan that it expects tax revenue for the current fiscal year to beat its projections by $359 million.
DeWine said there's no reason that a deal on the state's next two-year budget can't be reached this weekend. He noted the House and Senate versions passed with broad bipartisan support. In the case of the Senate, the budget passed with a rare unanimous vote.
"We're not far apart. Our ideals are the same. Both bills passed bipartisan basis. Both of them were consistent with my original budget," he said.
The Senate version includes $550 million that DeWine sought to boost educational wraparound services such as mental health counseling, plus $125 million more toward education-related spending, such as private-school scholarships and more money for growing school districts whose funding has been capped.
Like the House plan, the Senate version raises the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, but also adds taxes on vaping products.
Friday's House session was canceled, meaning weekend sessions were likely.
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