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Senate unveils volumes of changes to budget

As discussed in yesterday’s Multistate Tax Update, this week the Ohio Senate Finance Committee accepted its first draft of the state’s two-year operating budget—which included numerous changes from the House proposal.

Senate leadership removed funding for many of the special projects included by the House, making it clear they believe the House has overspent in their version of the budget. The words “eliminates” and “removes” are prevalent in the 17-page summary of Senate changes. However, the Senate version was not without its own special projects, including funding for Teach For America, the "People Working Cooperatively" program, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and others.

The following are a sample of the changes in the Senate’s budget proposal:

  • Reinserting Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to increase the excise tax on cigarettes, but at a rate of 40 cents instead of $1 per pack.
  • Increasing funding for the Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention Cessation and Enforcement program by $3 million in fiscal year 2016 and $5 million in fiscal year 2017.

  • Requiring state institutions to develop and implement a plan to reduce tuition costs by 5 percent for all undergraduate students.

  • Freezing instructional and general fees at state institutions of higher education for academic years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 at current levels for all undergraduate students.

  • Increasing the state share of instruction by 4.5 percent in fiscal year 2016 and fiscal 2017 to assist with these efforts.

Noticeably absent is a severance tax increase, something Ohio Senate President Keith Faber has said his caucus is seriously considering. The governor included a 6.5 percent tax on oil and natural gas sold at the source and a 4.5 percent tax on natural gas and natural gas liquids that are processed. A compromise has not yet materialized, with many industry representatives decrying the increase at a time that commodity prices have plummeted. During a press conference on June 8, Faber indicated he is hopeful a proposal will be included in the omnibus amendment, which will be accepted next week.

Amendments for consideration in the omnibus amendment were due June 11. The amendment, which will include a large amount of additional changes, will be accepted early next week. A full Senate vote on the measure is anticipated June 17.

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