With a June 30, 2011, deadline looming for the State of Ohio Operating Budget, few other bills have been introduced in the last month.

State of Ohio Operating Budget

Below is a summary of highlights from the budget as it currently sits in “conference committee” — a committee made up of House and Senate members. The Conference Committee is controlled by the Republican Party and is expected to iron out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget bill (HB 153). After they have completed their work, the Conference Committee will send the budget to the Governor who can make line-item vetoes before signing the bill into law.

Advanced Energy Fund — The state budget as proposed by the Governor required the “Advanced Energy Programs” fund to be used for financial assistance for eligible advanced energy projects for residential, commercial and industrial businesses; local governments; educational institutions; nonprofits; agriculture customers; and to pay for the program's administrative costs. The House made no changes, but the Senate further required the Director of Budget and Management to transfer $750,000 in cash in each fiscal year from the Advanced Energy Fund to the Alternative Fuel Transportation Grant Fund.

Diesel Emissions Reduction — The House and Senate established the Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant Program with an appropriation of $10 million in each fiscal year. This program is to be administered by the director of the EPA and developed by the EPA, ODOT and ODOD. It is established in the Highway Operating Fund. The EPA director is to solicit, evaluate, score and select projects submitted by public and private entities for the Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program, and the ODOT director is to process Federal Highway Administration-approved projects as recommended by the EPA director. House and Senate provisions allow Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant Program funds to be used to purchase hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles under CMAQ Program guidance. Public entities are to be reimbursed for eligible costs from the ODOT, and private entities are to be reimbursed for eligible costs from cash transferred from ODOT to the Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant Fund used by the EPA.

Energy Strategy — Ohio Air Quality Development Authority to establish the Energy Strategy Development Program for the purpose of developing energy initiatives, projects and policy for the state. The program will be funded by a combination of money credited to it and money obtained for advanced energy projects from federal or private grants, loans, or other sources totaling $176,175 in FY 2012 and $176,394 in FY 2013. All interest earned on money in the Fund will be credited to the General Revenue Fund.