Thu. 11:13am: Ohio lawmakers near vote on $62B state budget

COLUMBUS (AP) – After months of wrangling, state lawmakers are preparing to grant final approval to the massive policy document that lays out Ohio’s spending priorities for the next two years.

The $62 billion state operating budget is scheduled for floor votes in both the Ohio House and Ohio Senate today, with Republican Gov. John Kasich facing a Sunday deadline to sign it.

The voluminous bill delivers $2.7 billion in tax reductions over three years to individuals and small businesses, revises Ohio’s school-funding formula and changes health care programs.

Other provisions affect policies on abortion, exotic animals, e-schools and campaign finances.

Absent from the legislation are Kasich’s proposals to increase taxes on oil and gas drillers and to expand Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program, under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The energy tax hike, which Kasich intended to fund income-tax reductions, faced strong and vocal opposition from the well-funded oil and gas industry, which is aggressively exploring newly accessible natural gas and oil stores in shale layers under eastern Ohio.