COLUMBUS, Ohio — No deal yet. With a deadline a little more than a week away, state lawmakers are working to approve a new two-year state budget, but they're facing a few sticking points.
The Ohio House and Senate Conference Committee, the six-member bipartisan and bicameral panel tasked with reaching an agreement on the biennium budget, met for two minutes Tuesday.
"The House and Senate continue positive negotiations and are making progress on the operating budget," said Chair Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton.
Oelslager said the committee will not meet again publicly until they have a deal. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to get the budget onto Gov. Mike DeWine's desk so he can sign it before the state's government shuts down.
"We know we have a job to do for the people of Ohio to produce the best policy we can so they can grow, prosper and achieve and that's been the overarching goal," Oelslager said.
While Oelslager is optimistic the budget could be passed by the end of the week, not everyone on the conference committee is thrilled about its direction.
When asked how confident she is that both sides are negotiating here in good faith, Rep. Erica Crawley, D-Columbus, responded, "I'm not confident that they are."
Crawley, the ranking member on the Ohio House Finance Committee, said House Democrats have several issues with the Senate's proposal. None bigger than the way Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, wants to fund schools.
"He thinks that his plan is probably the best plan that has been put forward and we know that Speaker Cupp has been working on this for the past three years. It has been vetted. It is data driven and so we know where that plan would take us," said Crawley.
The House's idea, House Bill 1, also known as the 'Fair School Funding Plan' Speaker Robert Cupp, R-Lima, and former Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, came up with, takes 60% property taxes and 40% income taxes to reach its cost per student. The House set aside more than $7,000 per student over a six-year period.
The Senate's plan takes teacher salary, student-teacher ratio and other money to find the cost per-student. The upper chamber wants to give a little more than $6,000 a year per student over a two-year period.
"If Sen. (Matt) Huffman is not really willing to negotiate on that and he feels like his plan is the best, I don't know where they go from there," Crawley said.
Last week, committee members found out they will have around $3 billion more than they anticipated from tax revenue. Crawley and Huffman disagree on where the extra dough could be spread.
"The 5% (income) tax cut that the Republicans have decided to give away. That's $874 million that could be used to go to broadband cause we know that House Bill 2 and the funding got taken out of the budget as well as the Fair School Funding Plan," said Crawley.
"This is the time to cut taxes and that's why we have had these robust taxes both the income side and the other side where it involves business and hiring people," said Huffman.
Ohio Senate Majority Caucus Spokesperson John Fortney also responded to Crawley's claim about the budget negotiations.
"Democrats never met a tax cut they could endorse nor a school funding plan that was accountable to the taxpayers,” Fortney said. “Our conference committee negotiations continue in good faith."