Ohio’s state operating budget is officially in overtime.
The House of Representatives voted 90-2 on Sunday evening to join the Senate in approving a 17-day interim budget after the Republican-led chambers failed to strike a deal on a two-year spending plan.
State government agencies and services will continue uninterrupted, legislators said, as they continue to be fully funded at current levels as the new state fiscal year begins Monday.
Hopes of an agreement were scuttled Saturday night — ahead of Sunday’s midnight deadline for passage of a budget bill — as frustration boiled over from GOP leaders from both chambers.
House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, was disappointed with the stalemate, which he said included a 24- to 36-hour stretch in which House and Senate negotiators did not even speak last week.
“We were not that far apart at all, that’s one of the most frustrating things of all,” Householder said following Sunday’s House vote.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine quickly signed the interim operating budget and a 30-day funding extension for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation after lawmakers also failed to approve its budget on time.
“While I am disappointed that the budget process has extended beyond July 1, I want assure all Ohioans that state services will not be interrupted in any way,” DeWine said in a statement in which he prodded lawmakers to get back to the bargaining table.
The Republican-dominated General Assembly, working with a slate of all-Republican statewide executive officeholders, became the third group to fail to produce a budget on time during the past 28 years. It was, critics and Democrats pointed out, a political embarrassment.
While her caucus largely voted for the now-stalled operating budget and the interim budget, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, chastised the GOP, saying, “The people we elected to be leaders are not leading us very well ... they can’t seem to figure out how to get the state of Ohio working in a functional manner.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper spoke even tougher: “Tonight’s vote demonstrates a level of dysfunction and dereliction of duty that would get most working Ohioans sent to the unemployment line. As GOP legislative leaders have traded barbs and made excuses, Gov. Mike DeWine hasn’t been able to get his own party in line and deliver an on-time budget. That’s an abysmal failure of leadership.”
The prior House and Senate floor votes on the child-friendly operating budget were hugely bipartisan, including a unanimous vote in the Senate. There was chamber-vs.-chamber and party-vs.-party vitriol amid the interim budget, but it was mixed. Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, for example, stood “proud” with Obhof in a joint statement.
Householder said he would give his overworked staff time off until Friday, when he plans to again start studying the budget and talking with Senate conference committee members.
Both he and Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, hope they will not need all 17 days to strike and approve a budget agreement and deliver the near-$69 billion two-year budget to DeWine for his signature — and potential line-item vetoes.
On the Senate floor Saturday night, Finance Chairman Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, effectively accused House members of playing games by failing to turn over their written budget amendments until late Saturday when the die was cast a stop-gap budget would be required. He used the word “unacceptable.” Householder then fired back in a tweet at Dolan, calling his remarks “a bizarre contrived excuse for continual procrastination.”
The speaker said his tweet came from “pent-up frustration that came roaring out” and was ready to move on with no animus when budget negotiations continue.
Householder was portrayed by many with knowledge of the budget talks as standing firmly behind some elements of the House budget, some desired by Democrats who helped elect him speaker.
Disagreement remains over taxation, particularly on a so-called small business tax break that Householder wants to nearly halve and Obhof and DeWine want to salvage in large part.
Shifts in school funding, state takeovers of academically failing school districts and high school graduation requirements remain an apparent sticking point, as does health-care language, including how to best reform and reign in pharmacy benefit managers who reap excess profits from taxpayers through the Medicaid program for poor Ohioans.
The House also voted 92-0 to follow the Senate in granting a 30-day interim budget to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation after the chambers could not agree on policy language that included the Senate stripping out post-traumatic stress disorder coverage for first responders.
Householder said he was ready to drop a House-passed measure, opposed by some Republicans and many Democrats, requiring those submitting injured-worker claims to reveal their immigration status.