Fri. 11:04 p.m.: Ohio governor ‘pleased’ with budget but warns of some vetoes

COLUMBUS — Smokers would see a 35-cent increase on a pack of cigarettes, all residents would see an state income tax cut and public colleges would freeze tuition rates for two years under a finalized $71.2 billion spending blueprint that cleared the Ohio Legislature today.

The Republican-dominated Ohio House voted 61-32 to send the measure to the governor.

House Democrats criticized the budget agreement, saying it fails to properly fund education and makes tax changes that shift burdens from the wealthy to the middle class and the poor. They also criticized provisions that they say attack organized labor rights and create barriers to getting health care for some people.

“First of all, this is the largest budget in Ohio’s history and what it does is give tax breaks to the wealthiest Ohio residents,” state Rep. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, said. “If you’re wealthy it’s a good budget, if you’re not, hold on to your hat because it is going to be a bumpy ride.”

O’Brien said the budget continues to cut local funding and that he was displeased that money would be spent on charter schools.

“A huge problem I have is that it continues to ignore loss of local government funding that has crippled communities,” he said.

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said, “Our priorities should focus on building and strengthening the middle class while fighting for our children’s futures, rather than attacking our schools, attacking workers’ rights, restricting women’s access to health care and looking out for the wealthiest few.”

Gov. John Kasich said he was pleased with operating budget that lawmakers sent him but noted some items would get vetoed. He declined to go into the details.

“We try to be and have been pretty sparing,” Kasich told reporters. “But there are going to be some vetoes and there will probably be some disagreements on the vetoes.”

Read more in the Saturday Tribune Chronicle.