The Senate passed its version of the biennial budget bill – House Bill 59 – on Thursday, June 6, after considering a raft of amendments and hours of debate. A total of 28 amendments were offered, with five ultimately included in the bill. The final vote of 23-10 was a straight party vote.
 
Majority members of the Senate touted the $1.4 billion in tax relief offered to small business owners through the small business tax deduction and the increased funding to primary and secondary education. The Senate added $221 million in education funding over the House version of the bill – for a total increase of more than $700 million over the current biennium – the largest increase in more than a decade, according to the majority.
 
Majority members of the Senate touted the $1.4 billion in tax relief offered to small business owners through the small business tax deduction and the increased funding to primary and secondary education. The Senate added $221 million in education funding over the House version of the bill – for a total increase of more than $700 million over the current biennium – the largest increase in more than a decade, according to the majority.
 
Minority members offered a long list of amendments, all but one of which were tabled without a formal vote of the Senate. The Democrats offered many of the same amendments offered the day before in the Senate Finance Committee including, among others: more funding for primary and secondary education and local governments; the expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults; removal of the expansion of the EdChoice voucher program; a biannual study of all tax incentives; and the removal of the three provisions regarding women’s health funding and treatment.
 
In total, the Senate version of the bill calls for spending of approximately $59.29 billion in all funds in FY 2014 and $61.28 billion in all funds in FY 2015 – including an addition of more than $60 million in FY 2014 and more than $230 million in FY 2015 over the House-passed version of the bill.
 
Members of the conference committee were appointed this week. As is traditional, the members of the committee include the chair, vice chair and ranking minority member of each body’s finance committee: Representative Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster); Representative Jeff McClain (R-Upper Sandusky); Representative Vernon Sykes (D-Akron); Senator Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton); Senator Bill Coley (R-Liberty Township); and Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron). The committee was scheduled to start deliberations on Thursday, June 13, but the first meeting was delayed until Tuesday, June 18. Members of the committee will be charged with harmonizing the two versions of the bill, with a goal of passage and signature by the Governor by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.